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What Happened to Ten Meters?

The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 32 from the DX University™*

By the time we are well into DXing and DXCC, most of us know about sunspots and sunspot cycles. It appears that we are currently approaching the peak of sunspot cycle 24. For those of us who have experienced several past cycles, this one, with a predicted peak of less than 100 spots, hasn’t been especially noteworthy.

My first DXing experiences came with the approach of cycle 19. Cycle 19 exhibited a peak smoothed sunspot number of somewhat over 200 spots during the summer of 1958. I can remember working great DX on a daily basis using only 90 watts and a double extended Zepp around 6 Meters above the ground.

Later in the fall of 1958, a ham friend in my High School chemistry class told me every morning how he had worked this ZS6 and that JA1, but I wasn’t terribly impressed. I had worked those and much more since our last class.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that he was a Technician Class ham, and his DX had been worked on six meters! All I knew was that we were all working lots of DX. In fact, none of us knew much about what caused the good conditions; we had no idea what sunspots were!

As I went off to the university, there was little DX, and that was attributed to not being very active. So, it wasn’t until much later that my education extended to learning the basics of solar activity and all that it entailed.

During several of the subsequent sunspot peaks, we all experienced great propagation. Signals on 20 meters from the USSR that pegged our S-meters, signals on the fifteen meter long path – from the West Coast to the Indian Ocean – in the late evenings, signals from the rare VU2 on ten meters near midnight, and so on.

Cycle 23 produced great openings with two peaks, roughly a year apart. During that cycle peak, six-meter openings to Europe occurred regularly. When the guys at work came in around 10:30 am, I knew “the [magic] band” had been open. Openings to Europe on six meters were even observed in western states like Montana and Idaho. Unfortunately, although I was in the East at the time, I was not on the air.

The current cycle hasn’t lived up to those past peaks. But we did have a decent burst of ten-meter cycle 24 activity in the fall of 2011, and it appears that we are now experiencing a similar burst in 2012. The upcoming CQ DX contests and the ARRL early next year might well provide some of the greatest opportunities during this cycle to work a large number of countries on the highest bands. If you’ve been active on the high bands recently, you know how good it is. If you haven’t get to it! The next months may yield the last such opportunities to work ten and twelve meter DX for a long time.

*The DX University™ is a daylong learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. These weekly articles published in the WeeklyDX™ are archived in the pages of The DX University, www.dxuniversity.com