Update 17 November 14...October & November 14 the conditions have been great. What a turn around from early September.
Ten Meter Beacons  (updated 5 September 2014) YUCK! cycle 24 seems to have disappeared


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:

 LU1FHH         28.199MHz              K5GJR       28.2245MHz                    VE7MTY       28.197MHz
 K5AB             28.280MHz              NS9RC       28.297MHz                      K6FRC         28.300 MHz
 AB8Z              28.264MHz              LU2ERC     28.193MHz                      PY2WFG      28.2032MHz   (old chirpy)
 AA1TT           28.268MHz              W3APL       28.296MHz                       ZL3TEN       28.228MHz        

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

28.200     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 
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.