Northern Lights Quests

Yep still at this after 25 years…

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Funcube Satellite Telemetry

Prompted by Michael’s effort at acquiring NOAA Weather Images I thought I’d see what other telemetry or data was easily and publicly available from satellites. Sever satellites operate amateur radio transponders and you can listen in on QSOs, but some also allow you obtain satellite and experiment telemetry.

My first attempt was to get the telemetry from Funcube-1 (AO-73).

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SOTA promotional leaflet

‘Summits on the Air’ is a great way to operate an amateur radio station in a portable environment. In Ireland there are plenty of summits, of varying difficulty, to choose from. And you will nearly always manage to make contacts, especially if you can spot yourself on the sotawatch cluster, as people around the world really want to work you.

However, setting up a station, particularly for High Frequency, get’s you noticed. It can involve having a mast about 7m high and 20m of an inverted V dipole hanging from it! This invites attention from hillwalkers – especially if you fly a SOTA flag from the mast!

I’ve produced this leaflet to give out to such curious members of the public who come over for a chat. It’s mainly for Ireland but can easily be adapted for other counties and covers the basics of Summits On The Air.


Python: Creating a singleton (to control an Arduino)

A while ago I was writing a tool in python to communicate with a sensor on an Arduino. The idea was to have a class for the Arduino that would hold the connection and handle the reading and writing to the serial port. However that way I needed to have the object maintain the connection and the open COM port (this was on windows), but this meant that I could not have multiple objects. Why? Because you can only have one connection to a COM port. The solution – use a Singleton design pattern.

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Free Astronomy Observing Guides

Before these get lost in the ether (again!) I want to put them on my blog.

Some years back a few of us put together some observing challenge booklets for the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies. I don’t think the certificates are still being offered but they are a great resource if you are stuck wondering what you should try and look at with your new telescope or binoculars!


SKYRC iMAX B6 – Still the best LiFe charger in 2019?

I use lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO 4) batteries for my Summit On The Air Activations, any any time I’m operating portable really with my Yaesu FT-817 or FT-897D. They give reliable power for a long period of time and crucially for me – don’t tend to explode as much as LiPo batteries! (search youtube for ‘LiPo explosion’ !)

They do however need a special charger – you cant just plug these into the charger you use for you NiMh AA’s. Unfortunately there are a lot of options for chargers out there, the majority of which on ebay etc. seem to be clones. Now I don’t mind buying clones of some products, but for things that are liable to lead to a fire if they fail I’d rather stick to branded originals. And the charger that I was advised to get and I’m still happy with is the SKYRC iMAX B6.

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Tonlagee SOTA activation

Another SOTA catchup post from last year!

For the 40m counties contest in May I decided to go up Tonlagee. There is a steep but short route up to it from the ESB car park and since the weather was nice I decided to stay overnight. Weather for the contest was good, but the propagation was terrible especially for a low power station, still an enjoyable afternoon up there chatting to people who came over.

What really makes camping in the wilds of Wicklow worthwhile, apart from the silence, darkness, remoteness, lack of people all night, general solitude (can you tell that I used to really enjoy heading to the hills for a few days?) – is the mornings. Here are some photos:

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First SOTA Activation on Lug

I did my first SOTA activation on Lug in September for the 2m/70cm IRTS contest. I won the 2m contest and did well in the 70cm considering I just had a Baofeng handheld.

However Lug is windy. It’s the highest summit in the East of Ireland and it was a particularly windy and occasionally wet day. So not the time to try and get a 10 element antenna working portable. After it blew down hard a couple of times, I settled for setting it up couple of meters above the ground and was only just about able to turn it in the wind. Worth experimenting with again, but in better weather.

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Light Pollution Observations parser

I’ve created some code to do basic processing of light pollution observation files at https://github.com/albertw/Light-Pollution

This came about from chatting to Prof. Brian Espey about processing the data from the SQM data loggers that he and others use around the country to monitor Irish dark skies and to assis the Dark Sky Places (and prospective places!).

Basically it does two things:

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