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Six Meters : The Magic Band!

Six Meter VUCC Grids Worked = 521 (July 2005)
Six Meter WAS - ARRL Worked All States # 1088
SMIRK - Six Meter International Radio Klub # 6406
Six Club - Six Meters World Wide # 1205

Six is Great...I mean GREAT!

Let's shout it to the rooftops! Six meters is the gold of the amateur radio treasury! Can you tell?...I really enjoy working six, more than any other band. Why? The band is unpredictable, and that is what makes it a challenge and fun. I'm talking the six meters SSB and CW that takes place at the bottom of the band. (FM work, including repeater operation, takes place further up this four-megahertz chunk of VHF heaven.) Six is a very popular band for newly licensed Technicians, I get a thrill out of meeting and greeting the new to join the ham radio club.

Yes! F2 International DX On Six

At the peak of the sunspot cycle the magic band can open up to international dx. This happened from December 2001 through the end of February 2002. If you weren't there you might not believe it! Let it be proclaimed and recorded for history, what an opening it was! A once in a lifetime event. Europe, Oceania, Africa, Asia, all to be had with a modest station. Heads up though; international F2 openings are rare. They happen about once every eleven years at the solar peak. We may not have another as great as this one for decades.

K0KP's Six Meter DXCC Entities Worked

ES Skip Keeps Six Hoppin'

The usual dx on six meters, the lowest of the VHF bands, happens frequently during ES skip openings. The best ES skip is from about mid April through the end of September. During hot ES activity periods openings can happen on a near daily basis. Signal strengths can be very, very strong. Other less frequent ES openings can happen during the winter period of about mid December through mid January. For stations in the United States, ES skip typically produces contacts across the North American continent. On lucky openings with double and triple hop ES skip, QSOs can be had with the Caribbean islands, Central America, South America, Alaska, Hawaii and even Europe.

Popular ARRL VUCC Grid Square Award

The ARRL sponsors the VUCC award for confirmed contacts with Maidenhead Grid Squares. The basic six-meter award requires 100 individual grid squares. Operators using even a modest setup can accomplish this. I've snatched 521 grid squares, most worked using a small three-element yagi up 33 feet on a homebrew wood tower. (Upgraded to a 7 element yagi at 68 feet in October 2002.) The transmitter power is just 100 watts, but many of the grids were worked QRP with just 8 watts PEP! You too can earn the VUCC award. Oh yea! bet you can!

K0KP's Worldwide VUCC Grid Squares Worked

Map of K0KP's North American Grid Squares Worked

Six Meters Local Groundwave

Six meters is also a super local "groundwave" band. Signals on six propagate about a third farther than two meters. On SSB and CW, a modest station can have good ground wave propagation out to about 50 miles plus.

Groundwave works best when both stations utilize an antenna of the same polarization; either horizontal or vertical. Since most CW and SSB stations that chase grid squares and DX use a horizontal yagi, it makes sense to have available a horizontally polarized antenna. Two stations communicating by groundwave with cross-polarized antennas, such as one with a dipole and one with a vertical, can suffer up to 20 dB signal reduction. This amounts to over three "S" units loss. Cross polarization is of no consequence when working F2 or ES skip, only close-in groundwave.

The K0KP six-meter beacon operates on 50.073 MHZ with a power of 100 watts from grid square EN36WT. Beacons play an important part in tipping off six-meter amateurs to band openings that might otherwise be missed.

"America's Aurora Beacon" K0KP Six Meter Beacon

Bounce Off the Aurora!

Another fun way to work six meters is to use the Aurora, the Northern Lights as a reflector to bounce your signals to distant locations. This happens when a violent storm on the sun from a flare or coronal mass ejection bombards the Earth and charges the ionosphere. In a far northerly QTH, such as the one here at Fish Lake in northern Minnesota, this happens quite frequently. For latitudes further south, near the equator, auroral skip is very rare.

When a signal is bounced off the Aurora it becomes modulated by the varying intensity of the rapidly changing ionosphere. A CW signal sounds like a broad raspy buzz. A SSB signal becomes very distorted and a bit difficult to copy. Working a SSB auroral QSO requires the operator to speak slowly and very distinctly. CW is the preferred mode when bouncing signals off the Northern Lights.

MP3 Recording of K0KP's Six Meter Beacon Reflected off the Aurora.

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© 2003 - 2005 Rex Greenwell K0KP