Tag Archives: Eclipse

K3ES’ Eclipse Clean Sweep!

An Eclipse Clean Sweep

by Brian (K3ES)

Eclipse totality, as seen from US-8785, complete with corona.

My home QTH is located near Tionesta, PA, and the path of the 2024 eclipse put us near, but not in, the path for totality.  At home we would have more than 99.5% of the sun’s disc obscured.  I will confess that the distinction between 99.5% and totality was lost on me, but Becky was insistent that she wanted to be in the path of totality, because it gives a unique view when the sun’s disc is completely obscured by the moon.  At that point, only a halo of the sun’s corona remains visible.  Becky was right.  It was well worth the effort to get in the path of totality.

My contribution was to find a public area within the path of totality that would not be swarmed by traffic, cars, and people.

The Eclipse Plan

It turned out that we could be within the totality path by driving less than 20 miles from home.  We could also do this by driving away from population centers, rather than driving toward them.  Places like Erie, PA were expecting tens of thousands of people to visit.  I later heard stories of miles-long traffic jams, and hours of delay experienced by Erie pilgrims.  I hoped to, and thankfully managed to, avoid that fate.

After identifying that this section of PA State Game Land 086 was in the path for eclipse totality, a satellite view helped to identify open fields for viewing and activating.

I found that portions of Pennsylvania State Game Land 086 (coincidentally also POTA entity US-8785) lay within the totality zone.  Using a variety of on-line maps, I was able to find a parking area near the start of a gated Game Land road.

The road passed next to a series of small fields (satellite images are definitely helpful!).  Such fields are not uncommon at Game Lands, because it provides the opportunity for hunters to cross paths with rabbits and pheasants, both of which were out-of-season in April.  But, those same fields should have an unobstructed view of the sky.  So, we headed hopefully toward our selected parking lot, with plans to set up folding chairs (and a portable radio station) in one of the fields, as long as a parking space remained.

The POTA Plan

I had previously activated US-8785, making contacts on only the 40m band.  At that time, the goal had been a quick activation during a rove.  Lately, I have been working hard to accumulate contacts on 10 bands at multiple parks, inching my way closer to POTA’s N1CC award for making contacts on 10 bands from 10 different parks.

Prior to eclipse day, I had completed contacts on 10 bands from each of seven different parks.  While two or three of those contacts were made using VHF FM mode, my preferred method for achieving my goal at a park is to use CW mode and QRP power levels to make contacts on high frequency (HF) bands from 10m to 80m, and to also make CW QRP contacts on 160m (which is technically a medium frequency band).

The challenge with the 160m band (and the 80m band, to some extent) is that it generally works best after sunset.  Given that there would be an abnormal sunset occurring at 3:20 pm EDT, might it be possible to get a 160m contact during or near the period of totality?  That would be my quest.

So, I picked my equipment to give me the ability to rapidly move between bands.  I paired my KX3, with its excellent tuner and 160m to 6m coverage, with my VK160 homebrew 9:1 end-fed random wire (EFRW) antenna.  The story of VK160 design and construction and VK160 testing during Winter Field Day 2022 has previously been told in these pages (links provided), but suffice it to say that the radiating wire is 144 ft long.

If the crowds were sparse enough, I hoped to set it up as a shallow inverted V (I normally get a throw line up 30 to 40 ft, which is small in comparison to the antenna’s total length) along the wood line bordering the field.  I also brought two Bioenno LiFePO4 batteries that would normally be able to power my station for the large part of a day.  I chose battery redundancy, because there would be no opportunity for a re-do.

My operating plan was to make contacts on as many bands as possible.  I would start with 10m before the start of the eclipse, and work my way down in frequency, hopefully after making one or more contacts on each successive band.  I also needed to manage my time, so that I would get some time on each of the low bands – 60m, 80m, and 160m as the eclipse neared totality.  Since I already had contacts from a prior activation, I would not work 40m unless I had completed contacts on the other 9 bands.


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Eclipse Day

My cousin joined Becky and I for the outing to see the eclipse.  We all hoped that the afternoon would be memorable.  As we drove to our selected location, traffic was unexpectedly light, but the sky was overcast. There had been rain earlier in the morning, but the clouds seemed to be thinning as the day progressed, and we remained hopeful during the drive, particularly as glimpses of blue sky became apparent.

A final stretch on a dirt road brought us to the Game Land parking lot, a cleared patch of gravel, which was… empty!!!  It seemed that I had either planned well, or guessed right.  Either way, I was happy with the starting point!

We passed out the folding chairs from the back of the truck, shouldered our bags, and started the half-mile walk back the road to find our field.  We saw no vehicles and no people on the way in.  We did hear a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers drumming on branches near the side of the road, and we saw a Red-tailed Hawk and some Turkey Vultures soaring overhead.  It all made for an enjoyable walk, and the clouds continued to thin, with patches of blue emerging as the clouds continued their journey overhead.

Setting Up the Station

Here, I am preparing to throw a line to support the VK160.  I selected a tree somewhat distant from my planned operating location, so that apex would be located at about the midpoint of the radiating wire.
I used the K4SWL sling method of throwing the arborist line for this deployment.  While I am much more accurate using the “granny shot” throwing method, the sling method can get the line consistently higher.
I am deploying one of the three radial wires used with the VK160.  If you look closely, you can see the antenna feedpoint hanging behind me, level with my hat brim.  The cord holding the feedpoint can be seen just above my head.

When we arrived at the field, I scouted out a location for my antenna.  A tall tree at the woodline seemed to have a number of great branches high above the ground.  I broke out my arborist line, made my throw, and missed.  I repeated the process a couple more times, then snagged a light branch just a bit lower than I had hoped, but it would be sufficient.

Unwrapping the antenna (it takes a while to spool out 144 ft of wire) I found that it would stretch across the width of the field, and a bit further along one edge, so up it went in a bent inverted V.  A length of 550 cord secured it to a tree branch on the far side of the field, and a bit of light cord held the feed point to a tree branch near my chair.  This done, I connected and stretched out three counterpoise wires, connected the RG316 feed line, and started assembling the station.

On the Air

I am preparing for operation.  Station equipment is on the clipboard in my lap.  The antenna feedpoint can be seen at upper right.  The 15 ft RG316 feedline runs downward from the feedpoint, along the ground, and up to my operating position.
On the air with the KX3 set for 5 watts CW.
Working for a contact on 12m.
Continuing to work contacts as the light dims.  Chairs for Becky and my cousin are about 100 ft down the field from my operating position.
Between contacts I could quickly don my fashionable eclipse glasses to safely monitor progress, as the moon’s shadow progressed across the sun.

I was quickly ready to hit the air.  Having scheduled the activation in advance, I was not worried about cell service, but found that I had enough to verify my initial spot, as well as subsequent band changes.  As planned, I started on  the 10m band.  It took some time before my CQ call was returned.  After logging it, I called for a bit longer, then switched over to the 12m band, where things took a different turn. Continue reading K3ES’ Eclipse Clean Sweep!

WSPR Testing During the Total Solar Eclipse

Many thanks to Keith (KY4KK) who shares the following message originally sent to his local amateur radio club:

To anyone curious about how the eclipse might impact the ionosphere and amateur radio communications, this may be of interest.

On Saturday, 4/6/24, I set up 2 WSPR transmitters in my back yard. These will hopefully operate uninterrupted through sometime Tuesday afternoon, 4/9/2024. This should provide good baseline information before and after the solar event.

NASA scientists and other professional and amateur space engineers will consolidate data from amateur operators around the world to help understand how this rare event impacts the various layers of the ionosphere.

During the partial eclipse last year, a similar test revealed that several bands showed significant propagation changes for stations along the path of the event.

Tommy Walker (NG4S) graciously provided the WSPR transmitters and one of the antennas I’m using.

The configurations I’m operating:

  • WSPR Lite Classic (20 Meter Band)
  • Frequency: 14.097077 MHz (If you tune your HF rig to as close to this frequency as you can get, you MIGHT be able to hear some of the WSPR traffic going on)
  • Callsign: KY4KK
  • Transmit Power: 20 mW (.02 Watts)
  • Antenna: Chelegance MC-750 vertical – adjusted to resonance (no tuner)
  • Grid Square: FM04be
  • Start time: 00:44 Zulu 4/7/2024

WSPR Lite Classic (40 Meter Band)

  • Frequency: 7.040142 MHz (see above)
  • Callsign: KY4KK
  • Transmit Power: 20 mW (.02 Watts)
  • Antenna: Chelegance MC-750 vertical with 40 meter coil – adjusted to resonance (no tuner)
  • Grid Square: FM04be
  • Start time: 23:10 Zulu 4/6/2024

WSPR is a one-way digital communication protocol using VERY low power (less than .2 Watt or 200 mW). I usually set the transmitters to much lower power than that (.02 Watt or 20 mW) because the weaker signal is more likely to reflect subtle changes in either the antenna or the atmospheric conditions. The sending station transmits a beacon on a specific frequency for each band. The digital package sent by the transmitter contains the callsign of the operator, grid square location and transmitted power in milliwatts. The message is sent slowly and repeated several times. Then, there is a pause and it starts again.

There are amateur receiving stations around the world that are specifically configured to look for WSPR signals. If they can hear me, they record my information and the strength of my signal (how loud it is against the background static – measured in decibels). Their receiver, connected to the internet, then adds information about their station and automatically sends all of it to a central database that is accessible to the public in real time.

Several websites are available to extract the data or view it in map format. All of the ones I use are free and do not require a login. The ones I most frequently use are listed below, but there are others. In general, use my callsign (KY4KK) as the transmitting station, leave the receive station blank and select either 20 or 40 meters.


This site will allow you to pull raw data into a spreadsheet in .csv format if you want to do data analysis.

It also shows the most distant contacts and can display a map
Specifically, I will use this to look at individual stations that recorded me several times during the day. Where was the eclipse during each of the recordings, and did my received signal significantly change?
Also, I will look for differences in how the two bands will be affected.

WSPR Rocks

I like this site for mapping my contacts.

The interface takes some getting used to, but to start, go to the search button, select the number of spots to show, the time frame (10 minutes if you want to see immediate activity only), band (20m or 40m) and TX Call (KY4KK) and click Search. Then you can click map and it will show all of the contacts the station has made in that time frame.

PSK Reporter

This is another mapping program that may have an easier interface.

Display Reception Reports

As I have mentioned to some of you before, I am continuously amazed at how far WSPR transmissions can go with such low power. There has to be magic involved…

Final Disclaimer: When doing a test like this over several days, a lot of things can go wrong. Batteries die in the middle of the night, a dove crashes into my antenna, the dog runs away with one of my antenna radials (all of these have happened). If I see something has interrupted the transmission, I will try to correct it as soon as possible.

Best Regards,

Keith Wyrick – Amateur HAM Scientist