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Meteor scatter (MS) is the reflection of radio signals from the ionised trails from  Meteors (Iron Rocks) burning up in the upper atmosphere. This effect can be used by radio amateurs to make contacts at distances of up to around 2,200km. Meteors burn up in the atmosphere at a height of between 90-105km. The ionised meteorite trail will reflect VHF radio signals, which would otherwise travel straight into Space. 

Meteor Scatter radio contacts rely on multiple meteors to reflect small parts of each message over a period of time, usually around 20 minutes, but sometimes up to 1 hour. The mostly metallic (iron) meteors burn up in the atmosphere and leave an ionised trail of particles, which VHF radio signals can bounce off, for any time period from 100 milliseconds to over 2 minutes. The frequent time for reflections  is often around 250 milliseconds or just a quarter of a second!

You haven't time to speak normally, so you can use a series of audio tones to represent each letter of the alphabet and play this through your radio using a computer soundcard. You speed up the tones so that your short message instead of lasting perhaps 20 seconds, is transmitted in under 0.25 seconds, repeatedly over and over again.

Imagine a spy radio 'burst transmitter' sending a secret Morse Code message at hundreds of letters per minute very, very quickly to avoid detection and direction finding by the enemy! The techniques used for Meteor Scatter communication speeds are quite similar.

The receiving station listens and when a meteor is in just the right place he/she will hear your signal and then they slow your message down again to read it, using their computer soundcard and
WSJT software. You take it in turns to transmit and receive in set periods of every 30 seconds. Over 20 minutes, on average, the entire message is transferred in both directions to complete the contact. In this time maybe 4-6 meteors will occur.



Meteors may come at any time, but sometimes they come in showers, which can be predicted. During showers there are more meteors than usual and QSOs (contacts) are easier to make. Most work on 144 MHz is done during
Meteor Showers. A MS trail reflects 50MHz for longer time than 144MHz, so it is easier to work MS on 50MHz. Actually you do not need to wait for a MS shower at all to make QSOs, you can arrange skeds via the ON4KST 50/70/144/432 MHz online Chat.

Meteor Scatter signals sound like brief enhancements of the signal you are listening for. Out of the noise pops your QSO partner at 59+ for mostly less than a second, but then he fades fast away again. Sometimes bursts are many seconds long and you may be lucky to make a QSO in one burst. But as ever on VHF you have to be fast..

Meteor Showers

Meteor Showers

Active Period

Approximate activity maximum

Peak recorded Radio reflection hourly rate

Quadrantids

Jan 01-Jan 05

Jan 04

522 (2009)

Delta Leonids

Feb 15-Mar 19

Feb 25

353 (2010)

Virginids

Jan 25-Apr 15

Mar 24

299 (2009)

Lyrids

Apr 16-Apr 25

Apr 22

403 (2010)

eta-Aquarids

Apr 19-May 28

May 05

488 (2005)

Comet 209P TBC??

May 24-May 31 May 24/31 540 (2007)
Pegasids Jul 07-Jul 13 Jul 10 495 (2007)

Southern delta-Aquarids

Jul 12-Aug 19

Jul 28

500 (2007)

Perseids

Jul 17-Aug 24

Aug 12

527 (2009)

a-Aurigids

Aug 25-Sep 08

Aug 26

492 (2007)

Delta-Aurigids

Sep 05-Oct 10

Sep 9

298 (2007)

Piscids

Sep 01-Sep 30

Sep 20

396 (2009)

Orionids

Oct 02-Nov 07

Oct 14

471 (2009)

Leonids

Nov 14-Nov 21

Nov 19

700+ (2002)

Puppid-Velids

Dec 01-Dec 15

Dec 07

306 (2005)

Geminids

Dec 07-Dec 17

Dec 14

521 (2005)

Ursids

Dec 17-Dec 26

Dec 22

243 (2007)

 

Amateur Radio Meteor Scatter

 

When transmitting signals within the Amateur Radio VHF bands you should prepare yourself to make the QSO in small bits of mostly a few seconds. There is a procedure for MS-QSOs agreed on in IARU Region 1. If we all follow it, the QSOs are much easier.

PLEASE NOTE: Meteor Scatter guidelines suggest that if possible,

Northbound and Westbound transmissions should be made in the 1st period

and

Southbound and Eastbound transmissions should be made in the 2nd period.

This will avoid you causing QRM by transmitting when other local amateurs are listening! This guide is often ignored by stations who are unaware of it and results in havoc, with you trying to listen for weak signals at the same time that a nearby strong station is transmitting. (However for stations in central Europe it can be difficult to comply because different stations in the same Country may be working to the West and the East at the same time, so you should arrange a scheduled QSO on a frequency away from 50.230 MHz or 144.370 MHz in that case).

 

 

METEOR SCATTER REPORTING SYSTEM

The report consists of two numbers (often '26' as shown below)

First number (burst duration)  

Second number  (signal strength)

2 : up to 5 sec 

6 : below S2 or below 5 dB

3 : 5-20 sec

7 : from S2 to S3 or from 5dB to 10dB

4 : 20-120 sec 

8 : from S4 to S5 or from 10dB to 15dB

5 : longer than 120 sec

9 : above S5 or above 15dB

 

 

 

 

PRIMARY EUROPEAN METEOR SCATTER FREQUENCIES & WEAK SIGNAL DATA MODES USED

Old Region 1 Band plan had 50.200-50.300 MHz for Meteor Scatter (still largely in use 2013)

FREQUENCY

MODE

COMMENT

50.230 MHz* JT6M

 

95% European activity this mode seen here 2013
50.235 MHz* ISCAT-B Some European activity this mode, seen here 2013, better performance than JT6M but not readily adopted by users yet.
50.270 MHz* FSK441

 

Not ideal for 50MHz use, JT6M mode superior for longer reflections found on 6m
50.280 MHz* PSK2k

 

New none WSJT mode, difficult to install, but fully automatic
50.325 MHz* ISCAT-B Some European activity this mode, seen here 2014, better performance than JT6M but not readily adopted by users yet.

New Region 1 Band plan since 2012 suggests 50.320-50.380 MHz for Meteor Scatter

(largely not adopted yet by European MS community)

FREQUENCY

MODE

COMMENT

50.325 MHz ISCAT-B Some European activity this mode seen here 2014
50.330 MHz JT6M 5% European activity this mode seen here 2013
50.370 MHz FSK441 No European activity this mode seen here 2013
70.230 MHz JT6M or FSK441 90% European activity this mode seen here 2013 +/- 20 kHz
144.360 MHz PS2K Unofficial frequency for PS2K users 100% European activity this mode seen here 2013
144.370 MHz FSK441 100% European activity this mode seen here 2013 +/- 20 kHz

NOTES

*As of June 2013 the new Region 1 (European) band plan, that came into effect on 1st January 2012, is largely being ignored by the VHF community, as all data modes in Europe were recommended to move above 50.300 MHz to free up space for more SSB voice, however 50 MHz is often capable of Intercontinental communications and there remains much US JT65 data activity below 50.300 MHz so that is where European stations remain to work them.

 

 

 

 

PRIMARY EUROPEAN WEAK SIGNAL FREQUENCIES & DATA MODES FOR OTHER PROPAGATION TYPES

FREQUENCY

MODE

COMMENT

50.250 MHz* PSK31  SPORADIC-E / F2 Transatlantic
50.276 MHz* JT65A  SPORADIC-E / F2 Transatlantic
50.278 MHz* JT9-1  SPORADIC-E / F2 Transatlantic (was 50.293 until 19th July 2013)
50.293 MHz* (+ >1500Hz) WSPR  US / EUROPE*
50.305 MHz PSK31  No PSK31 observed here in 2013 yet
50.333 MHz JT9-1  Japan - US - Japan
50.401 MHz (+/- 500Hz) WSPR  New Region 1 Band plan

NOTES

*As of June 2013 the new Region 1 (European) band plan, that came into effect on 1st January 2012, is largely being ignored by the VHF community, as all data modes in Europe were recommended to move above 50.300 MHz to free up space for more SSB voice, however 50 MHz is very often capable of Intercontinental communications and there remains much US data activity below 50.300 MHz so that is where stations remain to work each other.

 

 

 

   Meteor Scatter 

Weekly Visual Meteor activity outlook

 MS Euro Live

 Meteorscatter.net

MS procedures

Radio Meteor observatories on-line

Meteor Scatter Flow Chart

 

Meteor Showers

Meteor Shower Calendar

 

WSJT software

 Meteorscatter

ON4KST 50/70/144/432 MHz Chat

WSJT E-Group

 Radio Meteor Gallery

WSJT / FSK441 guide

Radio Meteor Observation Bulletin

Leonids Meteor Storm calculator for your area

Live Aurora/Es/MS last 10 minutes

Meteor Scatter Sounds

Kenwood TS-2000 settings for WSJT

Radio reflection detection by G7IZU

 

 DXpeditions

OSWIN VHF 36kW 53.5 MHz Meteor Scatter radar site

SKYMET VHF Meteor Radar System

OH5IY MS activity

 Meteor activity from Britain 

Visual Meteor Shower list

Meteor Scatter Projections

Live UK Meteor Scatter observation histogram

 

 

 

Radio Meteor Observatories Online (www.rmob.org)

Scatter daily activity analysis  (Click on thumbnail below)

SKiYMET Meteor Scatter daily activity analysis

NLO Meteor Detection Live 3D Spectrogram

 (click below)

Virgo Meteor Sky view applet

(click below)

 

   

I used to record radio detected Meteor Shower ping activity on 55.250 MHz over several years using the excellent and reliable data from Dave Swan, however I have had to stop for a couple of years due to the primary transmitter in Portugal closing down. Dave in 2013 is now back again using 143.050 MHz. The table below shows the recorded data and is useful for working out the best dates for MS propagation, albeit random meteors occur at any time.

Meteor Showers

Active Period

Approximate activity maximum

Visual ZHR

Peak Radio Hourly Rate (RHR) 55.250 or 143.050 MHz

(2004)

(2005)

(2006)

(2007)

(2008)

(2009) (2010) (2011) (2012) (2013) (2014) (2015) (2016)

Quadrantids

Jan 01-Jan 05

Jan 04

120

328

328

322

503

472 522 403 363     306    

Delta Leonids

Feb 15-Mar 19

Feb 25

3

N/K 

N/K 

N/K 

216 157 253 353            

Virginids

Jan 25-Apr 15

Mar 24

5

N/K 

N/K 

N/K 

217 158 299 317            

Lyrids

Apr 16-Apr 25

Apr 22

18

N/K 

100

147

317 197 N/K 403            

eta-Aquarids

Apr 19-May 28

May 05

60

250

488

206

330 323 N/K N/K            

Comet 209P TBC??

May 24-May 31 May 24/31 N/K N/K N/K 338 540 309 N/K 500            
Pegasids Jul 07-Jul 13 Jul 10 3 N/K  300 370 495 N/K N/K N/K            

Southern delta-Aquarids

Jul 12-Aug 19

Jul 28

20

275

250

419

500 N/K N/K 396            

Perseids

Jul 17-Aug 24

Aug 12/13

110

448

330

346

369 333 527 362            

a-Aurigids

Aug 25-Sep 08

Aug 26

N/K 

N/K 

N/K

N/K

492 N/K N/K N/K            

Delta-Aurigids

Sep 05-Oct 10

Sep 9

5

N/K 

N/K

275

298 N/K N/K N/K            

Piscids

Sep 01-Sep 30

Sep 20

3

N/K 

N/K

319 

301 288 396 356            

Orionids

Oct 02-Nov 07

Oct 14

20

N/K 

303

428

350 315 471 364            

Leonids

Nov 14-Nov 21

Nov 19

100+

700

in 2002

N/K

261

300 281 344 319            

Puppid-Velids

Dec 01-Dec 15

Dec 07

10

150 

306

279

304 N/K N/K N/K            

Geminids

Dec 07-Dec 17

Dec 14

120

325

521

434

486 435 469 473     303      

Ursids

Dec 17-Dec 26

Dec 22

10

162 

234

237

243 N/K N/K N/K     N/K      

 

 

UK Radio Meteor analysis shows that the best times for working random Meteor Scatter is between 0000-1300hrs with few meteors outside these times, obviously Meteor Shower peak times do differ from this general rule. I have found operating FSK441 for random Meteor Scatter during the afternoon and early evening has not been as good, but DX can be worked with perseverance. Full Meteor Shower list can be found here. An excellent website dedicated to the study of live Meteor reflections is that of G7IZU.

Below - Dave Swan's (G1BLO) radio meteor reflections at 55.250 MHz and live observation histogram at 62.1927 MHz as received in the UK, a very good indicator of meteor activity. The Geminids meteor shower peak on 14th December 2003 can be clearly seen at 0400hrs UTC on the December 2003 chart shown below.

 

70 MHz (4M)

70.230 MHz

JT6M or FSK441

 Meteor Scatter

70.260 MHz

FSK441

 Meteor Scatter

144 MHz (2M)

144.370 MHz

FSK441

 MS calling frequency

144.340-144.399 MHz

FSK441

 

432 MHz (70CM)

432.370 MHz

FSK441

 MS calling frequency

432.360-432.400 MHz

FSK441

 

When calling CQ with FSK441A (WSJT) on 144.370 MHz most amateurs have adopted the method of sending 'CQ 385' which indicates they are calling split by transmitting on 144.370 MHz BUT listening on 144.385 MHz for replies, this avoids congestion. When the original station hears your reply on 144.385 MHz they then QSY to 144.385 MHz and both stations complete the QSO on .385. They do not work split after the CQ is answered.

    

Shown below is a still image of my FSK441 QSO (using WSJT software) with ES6RQ on 21.12.2003 on 144.360 MHz a distance of 1116 miles and my best DX via Meteor Scatter so far. The burst captured below shows the signal I received from my friend 'Ants' in Estonia. I was only using 50 watts with my FT-847 and a 9 element Tonna Yagi at 150m asl to reply and you can see my MS signal report received in Estonia of 27.

A map of Stations I have worked on 144MHz Meteor Scatter from IO84 is shown below. The maximum practical range for MS QSOs is considered to be around 2200km, with my best distance so far being 1796km. I have managed to work stations via MS in Iceland, France, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Slovenia, Norway, England, Holland, Denmark & Spain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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