Ten Meter Beacons (updated 17 November 2010)
WHY SHOULD A PERSON LISTEN FOR PROPAGATION BEACONS?
There are several good reasons to tune through 28.175 to 28.300MHz and listen for the numerous beacons world wide. Although, I've kinda written this from the viewpoint of being in South Texas.... The same ideas are true where ever a person is located.
As the name implies, a propagation beacon is for information about propagation. Of the over four hundred beacons world-wide, it is quite possible to hear multiple beacons at the same time. South Texas is in a unique location for beacon reception. With the exception of the E layer propagation, most skip distances on ten meters are in the 1500 to 2000 mile range. South Texas is within this distance from both the East & West coasts. (NE & NW). Also the Gulf of Mexico provides a convenient path for South American beacons.
The reception and identification of a beacon is a indicator of conditions that will support communication on the ten meter band. Many beacon messages include power and antenna information. This information will permit a person to determine the magnitude of the opening . For instance, an East coast beacon operating with one Watt, a vertical antenna and showing a signal strength of 5 would be a pretty good indication that band conditions are very good.
The reception and identification of two or more beacons will indicate how wide spread the opening is. For instance, beacons from both California and Washington are heard with about the same signal strength. Very likely, the opening will yield contacts along the entire West Coast and quite possibly States nearby.
The morning and evening "greyline" periods usually show up some of the rare beacon signals. Turn the antenna towards the East or South East for the morning and West or South West for the evening period.
Another reason for listening for beacons involves the identification of the beacon. Beacons use CW for the messages. The message is repeated continuously. Most beacon messages are sent around 15 words per minute. There are some slower and some faster. This continuous message at different speeds is very valuable for CW practice.
Logging of beacon reception reports will give an indication of the day and time that certain propagation areas are open. Records kept over a sun spot cycle provides historical data in which future propagation can somewhat be predicted.
I like to participate in the Ten Ten contests and I use the beacons to determine which direction to point the antenna. I find a "strong" beacon signal and leave the frequency on one VFO while switching to the other VFO for calling CQ. Whenever the beacon signal fades or the responses to the CQ drop off, I find another beacon.
There are times when beacons are heard but no stations are being heard. It is quite possible that everyone is only listening. This is the time to point your antenna towards the beacon location and call CQ.
Beacons heard most often recently in Southeast
Alabama (EM71) include:
VE3TEN 28.175MHz K5GJR 28.2245MHz VE7MTY 28.197MHz
K5AB 28.280MHz NS9RC 28.297MHz K6FRC 28.300 MHz
AB8Z 28.264MHz KC9GNK 28.2835MHz
AA1TT 28.268MHz W3APL 28.296MHz
When a person logs a beacon for the first time it is nice to send a QSL card with the reception report. 99% of the Beacon operators are happy to QSL However, with the volume of mail it is always helpful to enclose a SASE.
NCDXF/IARU International Beacon Network
4U1UN UNITED NATIONS
28.200 VE8AT CANADA
28.200 W6WX SAN JOSE, CA
28.200 KH6WO HONOLULU, HI
28.200 ZL6B NEW ZEALAND
28.200 VK6RBP AUSTRALIA
28.200 JA2IGY MT ASAMA, JAPAN
28.200 RR9O NOVOSIBIRSK RUSSIA
28.200 VR2R HONG KONG CHINA
28.200 4S7B SRI LANKA
28.200 ZS6DN WINGATE PK S. AFRICA
28.200 5Z4B KENYA, AFRICA
28.200 4X6TU TEL AVIV
28.200 OH2B KIRKKILA, FINLAND
28.200 CS3B MADERIA IS
28.200 LU4AA ARGENTINA ( temp QRT)
28.200 OA4B PERU
28.200 YV5B CARACAS, VEN
Each transmission is repeated every three minutes. A transmission consists of
the Callsign of the Beacon sent at 22 WPM followed by four 1 second dashes.
The Callsign and the first dash is sent at 100Watts. The remaining dashes are
sent at 10Watts, 1 Watt and 0.1 Watts.