52 July 2017
Bending on the higher frequency bands will fade and
the signals will zip off into space — those bands will “close”
to long-distance propagation. Simultaneously, absorption at
the lower frequency bands will disappear and those bands
will “open.” At the end of the eclipse, the reverse happens,
and aside from some very confused electrons, things will
be back to whatever normal conditions were before the
What are the Hams Doing?
As you might imagine, this level of change coupled
with a major solar event has the ham radio community
pretty excited. Hams already can hear the world turning
as the daily ebb and flow of UV opens and closes different
bands and different paths. It’s a relatively slow process,
taking minutes to hours. The opportunity to experience
changes occurring so quickly you can hear them is another
So, what are we doing about it? We’re throwing
a party! Actually, it’s going to be a “QSO Party”
(pronounced “kyew-so” which means “contact”) in
which hams make short contacts as quickly as possible
on as many bands as possible throughout the event. The
bands will come to life in the morning and fill with signals
throughout the day. The Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP)
will be one of the premier ham radio events of the year!
Not only will hams be making contacts, but they will
be collecting data at the same time. We’ll be making use
of two recent ham radio innovations: automated receiving
decoders and data logging networks. The decoders —
Other decoders can do the same for WSPR and
PSK signals. Decoders will be deployed at dozens of
sites around the world on all of the active amateur
bands, listening especially hard at 50 MHz and below —
frequencies expected to be most strongly affected by the
The decoders will then relay their observations to
mapping and reporting services such as the Reverse
Beacon Net ( reversebeacon.net), PSKReporter
( pskreporter.info), and WSPRNet ( wsprnet.org) which will
store each and every observation. Hams will exchange a
short message indicating received signal strength and exact
location as a six-character Maidenhead grid location, such
as EM48ss (the author’s home locator). (You can learn
more about the grid system at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Maidenhead_Locator_System.) Hams will keep their own
“log” as well, with a list of all the contacts they’ve made.
Take a look at Figure 3.
Then what? That’s where the professional researchers
come in! There is no way even teams of pros could
duplicate the many thousands of amateur stations, so
they’ve decided to use the ham-generated data themselves.
All of the decoder readings and all of the logs will be
collected by a group of Virginia Tech faculty and staff led
by Bob McGwier N4HY. They will turn all that data into a
database that geophysics researchers can use.
What do the hams get out of it? First, hams like
making a lot of contacts and this will be a lot of fun. At the
peak, individual stations may make several quick contacts
every minute. Over the eight hours of the SEQP (see the
sidebar), some stations will log more than 1,000 QSOs
Second, hams really enjoy helping science along.
Science is what led to ham radio in the first place, and
hams have worked with the scientific community since
the early days of wireless. In fact, the SEQP is reminiscent
of the “Listening Tests” conducted in the early 1920s that
confirmed the presence of a reflecting mechanism
in the atmosphere now called the ionosphere.
(You can read more about amateur participation in
scientific and technological advances in History of
QST: Volume 1 — Amateur Radio Technology, 1915-
2013; available from the ARRL at www.arrl.org.)
In recent years, researchers using the HAARP
facility in Alaska and elsewhere have discovered
hams as an enthusiastic knowledgeable community
willing and able to help conduct worldwide
How Long Will It Last?
Everybody in the United States will get some view of the
eclipse, depending on cloud cover. If you are fortunate enough
to be “on the line” of totality, you’ll get the maximum length
experience: almost three hours from the time at which the
lunar disc first begins to cover the Sun, until it is clear of the
Sun again. Totality will last two minutes and 40 seconds at
maximum, near Carbondale, IL.
For some idea of how long the eclipse will last at your
location, try the web page at www.space.com/36388-
Solar Eclipse QSO Party Basics
• See the HamSCI SEQP web page for complete rules and FAQ.
• Time and Date: Monday, 21 Aug 2017 from 1400-2200 UTC.
• Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, and 6 meter bands (1.8 through 50 MHz).
• Modes: CW, PSK31, RTTY will be decoded and logged.
• Categories: Single-operator or multi-operator team.
• Exchange: Send the call sign of sending and receiving stations, signal
report, and six-character grid locator (e.g., EM48ss).