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Solar activity picks up

Today’s two sunspots:

Much has been written in the last couple of years about how quiet the sun has been. We are just starting to emerge from the low part of the 11-year sunspot cycle. For months, there were no sunspots at all. Today there are two active sunspots. In another five years, this cycle will peak, and it’s during that peak period when, because the sun’s surface is heavily riled, the earth is particularly subject to big geomagnetic storms of the type that disrupt communications and even affect the power grid.

Just how much solar variance affects the earth’s climate is hotly disputed, but we do know that the 11-year sunspot cycles dramatically affect the amount of ionizing radiation (that is, high frequency radiation such as X-rays) that hits the earth’s ionosphere. It’s this process that causes the Northern Lights. The process also causes radio waves of certain frequencies to travel much farther.

Since we had two good sunspots today, I thought it would be a good time to fire up a ham radio and see who can hear me. I made quick and easy contact with EA1ABT in Spain (at 14.19175 Mhz) and CU2CR in the Azores Islands (at 14.198 Mhz).

All it takes is a 100-watt transmitter and a modest wire antenna hidden in the attic.


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