Friday, June 26, 2015

RBN Entering the Science Mainstream - Who Woulda Thought It?

Almost without anyone's noticing, The RBN has begun participating in real honest-to-goodness SCIENCE!  It's not just for spotting any more, or antenna testing, or site selection for WRTC 2014. Instead, its unique capabilities are being applied to the study of space weather.

The work has been undertaken by a far-flung team of ionospheric scientists from Virginia Tech, the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University,and SRI, supported by the RBN team, as well as Alex Shovkoplyas, VE3NEA, author of the Skimmer series of CW and RTTY software. A first study based on RBN data, titled "Ionospheric Sounding Using Real-Time Amateur Radio Reporting Networks", was featured in Space Weather Quarterly early this year,

The article demonstrates the scientific potential of the RBN by comparing HF propagation data from the RBN  with observations of an X-class solar flare by the GOES 15 satellite. You can see the table of contents of the issue here, or download a complete PDF of the article here.

Building on this experience, the scientists have just begun feasibility tests that could lead to the deployment of RBN receiving stations across SuperDARN (a network of HF ionospheric radars coordinated by Virginia Tech and operated by research organizations).  A QS1R receiver and DX Engineering active vertical antenna have been installed at Virginia Tech's Blackstone radar, to assess what measures may be required to isolate the receiver from the SuperDARN radar's HF transmissions. This is not easy - the radar transmits about a kilowatt of RF, frequency-hopping from 8-18 MHz, Presumably, band-pass filters for the amateur bands can provide the necessary isolation.

Stay tuned for more news about the HamSCI initiative, as it's called.  We'll keep you updated.