Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The RBN and the Solar Eclipse - Coming August 21

On August 21, 2017, from 1400 to 2200Z, operators of RBN nodes will have a unique opportunity to contribute to scientific understanding of the ionosphere.  That time-frame straddles the period when the solar eclipse will be visible across North America, and is also when the Solar Eclipse QSO Party will be run.

The RBN's unique contribution, in North America but also worldwide, is to provide as many data points as possible during the 1400-2200Z period.  In order to do this, two departures from our normal practice are needed:

1.  It is desirable for science to have much more frequent spots of stations active in the QSO Party than could be produced with the standard 10 minute respot interval. To this end, Alex has provided for adjustabilty in this respect in the current versions of CW Skimmer, CW Skimmer Server and RTTY Skimmer Server.  By adding a single line to the .ini file for your skimming software, you can adjust the respot interval anywhere from the original 10 minutes down to zero.  In the latter case, every repetition of a station's callsign will be reported (provided of course that the station includes CQ or TEST at least twice in each transmission).

2. The RBN archive is not the best source of the scientific data we hope to produce, because the timing is relatively imprecise (nearest minute).  So check your Skimmer computer for a file titled "spots.txt" , which will be found in C:\users\[your username]\Appdata\Roaming\Afreet\Products\Skimsrv.  The spots.txt file gives the time when a spot is actually made, to the nearest second. Regrettably, there is no comparable file in CW Skimmer. For Skimmer ops, your data are welcome too, even if still on a 10-minute scale - after all the eclipse period is hours long!

If you have been operating your node for a while, this file will be quite large - all that we need is 1400-2200Z on the 21st.  You can use a text editor to extract the part we need.  Look on the HamSci web site for the address to send your data to - it will be posted very soon now.

HamSCI is also looking for recordings of digital I/Q data from Skimmer receivers made during the duration of the Solar Eclipse QSO Party. This will allow HamSCI to replay and analyze recordings from specific receivers in greater depth following the contest. HamSCI will be publishing guides shortly on how this can be done with the QS1R or Red Pitaya and CW Skimmer Server, or with any SDR capable of sending data to CW Skimmer using its built-in recording function. Note that this will consume significant hard disk space - up to about 4GB per hour per band. The data will be accepted for upload after the contest.

If you're interested in putting your node to work on this project, you're still lacking one thing - the magic formula to put into your Skimsrv's ini file to generate more frequent, "granular" data.  Email me, and the secrets of the universe will be revealed.

I'm doing it this way because I want to have some reasonable confidence that people won't start using shorter interval settings with the RBN servers outside the eclipse period.  Even one Skimmer can make a big difference in this regard, and we will not hesitate to block anyone's spots from the RBN server if they violate this rule outside the eclipse period.

So c'mon - it'll be fun!