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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Kippure Summit Activation

Kippure is one of the more popular SOTA summits in Wicklow. Probably because it has a nice road going up to it! The gate at the main road is usually closed – access is only for crews working on the transmitters, but there is parking for a few cars at the gate. This being on one of the main roads from Dublin you should not leave valuables in your car – I’d even suggest removing the boot cover and leaving the glove box open as there have been a spate of car break in’s this summer in the hills.
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Some thoughts on Morse Code

After passing my Class B Amateur Radio licence last year I intended to learn Morse Code in order to get the Class A license, and a “two letter” callsign. The morse requirement for a Class A license is to be able to rend and receive a paragraph of plain english text, sets of numbers, and a set of special characters and pro-signs, at at least 5 words per minute. I passed the exam in February, though I would advise finding out the structure of the exam in advance – I didn’t know what special characters were on the exam until the day or two before and had to hastily learn them!

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Trooperstown SOTA Activation

Last Monday I had a meting at the Wicklow Mountains National Park office, and with Trooperstown so close I thought it would be a shame not to go up and do an activation. It’s a 4point summit, EI/IE-035.

Coillte provide a car park just before the bridge over the Inchavore River (T 160 970), but if you are feeling lazy you can drive up the forest road and park where the trail up Trooperstown starts (T 164 962). I found the forest road fine in my wifes Ford Fiesta, there is parking for a couple of small cars at the trailhead.  Continue reading Trooperstown SOTA Activation

Corraun Hill SOTA Activation

While in Mayo last week I decided I’d take a few hours to try a SOTA activation. There are plenty of summits to choose from, 8 around Achill and another 25 between the Nephin range and Ceide Fields. Robert Lloyd Praeger in 1937 wrote that “the Nephinbeg range of mountains is I think the very loneliest place in this country” and so it’s no surprise that many of the SOTA summits here remain unactivated. Slieve Carr, the highest mountain in the Nephin range, is about 14km from the nearest road and is surrounded by bog. An activation would probably require an overnight camp, but you would be camping in Irelands first Dark Sky Park so the view of the un-light-polluted cosmos alone would be worth it. All that though is part of the allure of these mountains. If you do feel the call of wild Mayo and want some help or perhaps a guide, get in touch with the nice folks at www.terrafirmaireland.com. 
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Tonelagee SOTA activation with sotabeams linked dipole

I thought I’d try taking part in the IRTS 40m counties contest from a SOTA summit. My location and antenna at home isn’t great, so I figured that since it was a nice day that operating with only 5W on a summit would still be better than operating at home! The band was pretty poor for the contest but I did get 7 contacts and so managed the activation on 40m alone. I did bring a 2m antenna also just in case, and managed to get plenty of contacts into Wales and a Summit-2-Summit contact into the Pennines. 20 QSO’s altogether.

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Detecting Meteors from radio reflections

When I was in school, I remember being told that it was possible to tune an FM radio do a free frequency low in the band and during a meteor storm you could ‘hear’ when meteors struck the atmosphere as the FM signal from distant radio stations would be reflected back down from the ionised meteor trail. This may have been possible as back then there were plenty of high powered FM stations from Eastern Europe using a lower portion of the spectrum and receivers often went below the 88.5 that is the limit on the dial now. But I never heard anything. Over the years as my interest in meteors and radio was peeked I looked into it again, but the number of stations to use was dwindling and there were few artificial sources that could produce an audible ping. Continue reading Detecting Meteors from radio reflections