November 30, 2016

Milky Way over Shipwreck

What happened to this ship? It was carried aground by a giant storm that struck the coast of Argentina in 2002. The pictured abandoned boat, dubbed Naufragio del Chubasco, wrecked near the nearly abandoned town of Cabo Raso (population: 1). The rusting ship provides a picturesque but perhaps creepy foreground for the beautiful sky above. This sky is crowned by the grand arch of our Milky Way and features galaxies including the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, stars including Canopus and Altair, planets including Mars and Neptune, and nebulas including the Lagoon, Carina, and the Coal Sack. The mosaic was composed from over 80 images taken in early September. A 360-degree interactive panoramic version of this image is also available. The adventurous astrophotographer reports that the creepiest part of taking this picture was not the abandoned ship, but the unusual prevalence of black and hairy caterpillars. via NASA

November 29, 2016

W5: The Soul of Star Formation

Where do stars form? Many times, stars form in energetic regions where gas and dark dust are pushed around in chaotic mayhem. Pictured, bright massive stars near the center of W5, the Soul Nebula, are exploding and emitting ionizing light and energetic winds. The outward-moving light and gas push away and evaporate much surrounding gas and dust, but leave pillars of gas behind dense protective knots. Inside these knots, though, stars also form. The featured image highlights the inner sanctum of W5, an arena spanning about 1,000 light years that is rich in star forming pillars. The Soul Nebula, also cataloged as IC 1848, lies about 6,500 light years away toward the constellation of the Queen of Aethopia (Cassiopeia). Likely, in few hundred million years, only a cluster of the resulting stars will remain. Then, these stars will drift apart. via NASA

Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #8 - Frequency Step

This is an article in a series regarding the vintage Azden AZ-61 6m FM Transceiver.

The AZ-61's initialized frequency step is 5kHz.  The frequency step can be set to either 5kHZ, 10kHz, or 12.5kHZ.  The various functions on the vintage AZ-61 are a challenge to operate without instructions.  Hope the information below helps AZ-61 owners get the most from their their AZ-61.

Frequency Step

  • To change the frequency step value press: FUN + STEP
  • Note: A double beep will be heard.  The display will not change.
  • Use the UP or DOWN keys to confirm that the frequency step has changed.
Photo of the Azden AZ-61 hand held transceiver
Azden AZ-61 HT

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Other related articles on NJ2X.COM:
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #1 - How to program the radio
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #2 - disabling "the beep"
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #3 - 1993 review article
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #4 - rebuilding the battery pack
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #5 - how to reset the radio
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #6 - Automatic Power-Off
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #7 - VFO Mode
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #8 - Frequency Step
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #9 - Scanning
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #10 - Dual Watch

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

November 28, 2016

Arp 240: A Bridge between Spiral Galaxies from Hubble

Why is there a bridge between these two spiral galaxies? Made of gas and stars, the bridge provides strong evidence that these two immense star systems have passed close to each other and experienced violent tides induced by mutual gravity. Known together as Arp 240 but individually as NGC 5257 and NGC 5258, computer modelling and the ages of star clusters indicate that the two galaxies completed a first passage near each other only about 250 million years ago. Gravitational tides not only pulled away matter, they compress gas and so caused star formation in both galaxies and the unusual bridge. Galactic mergers are thought to be common, with Arp 240 representing a snapshot of a brief stage in this inevitable process. The Arp 240 pair are about 300 million light-years distant and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of Virgo. Repeated close passages should ultimately result in a merger and with the emergence of a single combined galaxy. via NASA

November 25, 2016

Apollo 17 VIP Site Anaglyph

Get out your red/blue glasses and check out this stereo scene from Taurus-Littrow valley on the Moon! The color anaglyph features a detailed 3D view of Apollo 17's Lunar Rover in the foreground -- behind it lies the Lunar Module and distant lunar hills. Because the world was going to be able to watch the Lunar Module's ascent stage liftoff via the rover's TV camera, this parking place was also known as the VIP Site. In December of 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the Moon, while colleague Ronald Evans orbited overhead. The crew returned with 110 kilograms of rock and soil samples, more than from any of the other lunar landing sites. Cernan and Schmitt are still the last to walk (or drive) on the Moon. via NASA

What we will learn...

Projects we have completed demonstrate what we know.  Future projects decide what we will learn. -- Dr. Mohsin Tiwana.

Pontificating about high-concept things...

I don't spend my time pontificating about high-concept things;  I spend my time solving engineering and manufacturing problems -- Elon Musk

The Origins of Silicon Valley: Roots in Ham Radio” Video

“The Origins of Silicon Valley: Roots in Ham Radio” Video

The ARRL Centennial National Convention presentation, “The Origins of Silicon Valley: Roots in Ham Radio,” by Paul Wesling, KM6LH, has been edited into a video and is now available on YouTube.

Vacuum Tube
“It tells of the interesting events in the maritime port of San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century, as early radio was being developed, and follows the hams who designed new devices and equipment to address steamship traffic plying the Pacific Ocean,” Wesling said. “Their efforts to break the east coast monopoly on tubes and to extend radio into the microwaves as the country approached World War II form the basis for what became Silicon Valley.”
Wesling said the presentation traces early vacuum tube development and other contributions by Bay Area amateurs, “and the continuing spirit of hobbyists and collaborators that fuel today’s high-tech mecca.” The presentation runs about 1 hour.
A graduate of Stanford University, Wesling, a IEEE/CPMT Society Distinguished Lecturer, retired from Hewlett Packard in 2001, and then served for 10 years as Communications Director for the IEEE’s San Francisco Bay Area Council.

November 24, 2016

Anderson PowerPole Tip #1 - Correct configuration "Red Right Up"

Anderson PowerPoles black and red connectors can be connected together in two different ways.  One is the defacto standard the other will potentially ruin your day.  Remember the mantra, "Red Right Up" and your Anderson PowerPole contacts will be oriented correctly.

Correct configuration of Anderson PowerPoles: "Red Right Up"

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

November 22, 2016

Plutos Sputnik Planum

Is there an ocean below Sputnik Planum on Pluto? The unusually smooth 1000-km wide golden expanse, visible in the featured image from New Horizons, appears segmented into convection cells. But how was this region created? One hypothesis now holds the answer to be a great impact that stirred up an underground ocean of salt water roughly 100-kilometers thick. The featured image of Sputnik Planum, part of the larger heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio, was taken last July and shows true details in exaggerated colors. Although the robotic New Horizons spacecraft is off on a new adventure, continued computer-modeling of this surprising surface feature on Pluto is likely to lead to more refined speculations about what lies beneath. via NASA

November 21, 2016

Nova over Thailand

A nova in Sagittarius is bright enough to see with binoculars. Detected last month, the stellar explosion even approached the limit of naked-eye visibility last week. A classical nova results from a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf star -- a dense star having the size of our Earth but the mass of our Sun. In the featured image, the nova was captured last week above ancient Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai, Thailand. To see Nova Sagittarius 2016 yourself, just go out just after sunset and locate near the western horizon the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius), popularly identified with an iconic teapot. Also visible near the nova is the very bright planet Venus. Don’t delay, though, because not only is the nova fading, but that part of the sky is setting continually closer to sunset. via NASA

November 20, 2016

Social Media for Radio Amateurs: Tip #1 - IFTTT

This post is part of a series about social media for amateur radio.

Overwhelming Success
The Internet (including social media) is a powerful resource for radio amateurs.  It is a great way to both share and access information about amateur radio via the Internet.  The Internet's overwhelming success has created a new challenges with the overwhelming number of websites and apps available.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the the Internet resources we regularly utilize.

IFTTT (If This Then That)
IFTTT is a way to "put the Internet to work for you".  IFTTT stands for If This Then That.  IFTTT is pronounced by enthusiasts as a word rhyming with "gift".  IFTTT is a web service tool that that can be used to automate web resources.  It is fairly easy to use and supports automation with over 110 different services called "channels" including social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, YouTube, and etc.

What can you do with IFTTT and social media?
IFTTT provides a fantastic number of automation "applets" that radio amateurs can use to automate work with social media.  Here are a few examples:

  • Share your new Blogger posts to Twitter
  • Share your new Blogger posts to Facebook
  • Post WordPress posts to Blogger
  • Post new YouTube videos to your Wordpress blog
  • Automatically send a tweet thanking your new Twitter followers
Hope this tip helps you automate some of your repetitive social media work with either your amateur radio club or for your own station activities.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

November 18, 2016

The fewer moving parts, the better...

The fewer moving parts, the better.  Exactly.  No truer words were ever spoken in the context of engineering. -- Christian Cantrell

November 15, 2016

Field Test: Nomad 7 Solar Panel Performance

This article is part of a series about using the Nomad 7 Solar Panel for amateur radio use on backpacking trips.  Be sure to review our prior article, "Project: Regulating the 12v Output of the Nomad 7 Solar Panel".  In this article we bring the project together with a field test during a high adventure backpacking trip in the Californian Sierras.

Golden Trout Wilderness

The Adventure

Our hiking group decided to take a 5-day / 52-mile (83.7 km) hike through the Golden Trout Wilderness located in the Sierra Nevada range in California.  The Golden Trout Wilderness is 474 mi² (1227.65 km²) (303,511 acres) of rugged mountainous beauty.  The wilderness is named for and protects the habitat of golden trout which is California's state freshwater fish.

Photograph of a golden trout being help in the palm of a hand.
California's state freshwater fish the golden trout.
Elevations range from about 680 feet (210 m) to 12,900 feet (3,900 m).  An abundance of wildlife inhabit the Golden Trout Wilderness including Monache deer, Sierra Nevada red fox, pine marten, cougar, black bear, rattlesnake, and scorpions.  We would be off the grid completely for the duration of our 52-mile trek.  No electrical power.  No stores or restaurants.  No mobile phone service.   Perfect!

Photograph of a scorpion
Scorpion encountered while trekking in the Golden Trout Wilderness

This meant that each member of the team would need to pack what he would need to survive for 5-days in the wilderness.  Here is what I stuffed into my backpack:
  • Topographical map
  • 1 gallon zip lock bag to keep the the map dry
  • Compass
  • Small tube of sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Fleece jacket
  • Rain shell
  • Boonie Hat
  • Quick drying pants that convert to shorts
  • Headlamp
  • First aid kit
  • Waterproof matches in a waterproof container
  • Small butane lighter
  • Knife
  • Dehydrated food for 6 days
  • Trail snacks
  • Bear canister
  • Hip canteen
  • 1.5 liter water bag
  • Water purification chemicals
  • Tarp
  • 550 cord
  • 2 trekking poles
  • Bivy
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • 2 pairs of wool socks
  • 2 wicking undershirts
  • 1 quick-drying shorts
  • 2 wicking long sleeve shirts
  • Fuel canister
  • Backpacking stove
  • Small foil pack of chili peppers
  • Whistle
  • Cook pot
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Liquid soap
  • Baby wipes
  • Ultralight super absorbent towel
  • Toilet paper
  • Trowel
  • Kenwood TH-F6A tri-band HT
  • Nomad 7 Solar Panel (modified and regulated)
  • iPhone for pictures
  • Earbuds
My backpack weighed around 38 lbs. at the start of our journey.  Weight is extremely important on a long trek with significant elevation changes.  Every bit of additional weight requires more energy from the backpacker.  The weight is most apparent when climbing several thousand feet in elevation.

We knew we would be isolated throughout our trek.  Our adventure was scheduled to start immediately after the mountain roads became clear of snow so we were pretty sure we wouldn't encounter very many people (if any).  Communication is critical in an emergency situation. 

Emergency Communication Gear

We had two hams in our group so we naturally decided to pack a set of two-way radios and solar power.  The Kenwood TH-F6A HT radios would allow us to maintain communication with each other if we became separated or if someone had to hike out to get help.  The radios would also provide the possibility of calling help directly from a mountain peak through either a repeater or another amateur radio operator.  
Photograph of the Kenwood TH-F6A tri-band amateur radio
Kenwood TH-F6A Tri-band HT

We packed our Nomad 7 solar panel that we had modified to provide output via Anderson Powerpole and a pigtail suitable for the Kenwood HT's.  The solar panel would allow us to keep our radios and mobile devices charged for the duration of the trip. 

Photograph of the Nomand 7 Solar Panel and Kenwood TH-F6A tri-band amateur radio
Nomad 7 Solar Panel and Kenwood TH-F6A

Field Test Results

Our Kenwood TH-F6A radios worked great during our trip.  We used them to maintain communication between the front and back of our group while hiking.  We also used them to maintain communication when exploring the area around camp.  Fortunately, there were no emergencies during our adventure.

On two occasions we inadvertently and unknowingly dropped our radios while crossing obstructions.  In both instances we noticed the radios were no longer attached to our packs and quickly retraced our steps to recover the radios.  The Kenwood TH-F6A is well-built and suffered no damage from either incident.  From this experience, we learned that clipping the radio to the pack is insufficient for securing it.  We improvised lanyards from lengths of 550 cord to positively attach our radios to our packs.  The lanyards allowed the radios to be used while hiking without the risk of falling off and becoming lost along the trail.

We are blessed in California with an abundance of sunshine which we harnessed with our Nomad 7 solar panel to recharge our iPhones and Kenwood TH-F6A.  We chose to recharge one device at a time so as to minimize the charging time.  In full-sun, the Nomad 7 seemed to recharge our iPhones at about the same rate as we would have experienced plugging them into a wall socket charger.  The Nomad 7 did a great job of recharging our Kenwood TH-F6A for the first few days.  On our last day, while recharging our Kenwood F6A via the Nomad 7 solar panel, the radio stopped charging and would no longer power-on.  We believe the unregulated (15vdc in full sun) output of the solar panel was the cause.  For more on this read our article Project: Regulating the 12v Output of the Nomad 7 Solar Panel.

We decided to protect our remaining radio from damage by not connecting it with the solar panel for the remainder of our trip.  Having at least one functioning radio in the event of an emergency was our priority.

We tried recharging while hiking by tying down an open Nomad 7 to our backpack.  This didn't work very well as were constantly moving in and out of sun and shade.  We found it more effective to recharge when stopped on breaks, lunch, or while setting up camp.  Being stationary allowed us to orient the solar panel to maximize sunlight exposure.

The Nomad 7 is very well made and durable.  We gave ours some unintended rough treatment while backpacking and it kept working the entire trip.  This is an important quality in any backpacking gear.  Packs and their contents tend to get knocked around a bit while trekking.  

Even though we didn't have an emergency, it was comforting to know that we could recharge our devices during our 5-day trek through the Golden Trout Wilderness.  Our batteries would certainly have been depleted after 5-days of usage had we not had a solar panel in our packs.  We really enjoyed being able to shoot photographs to our hearts content with our iPhones without worrying about running out of power.  At 1.4 lbs, the Nomad 7 solar panel was definitely worth the additional weight.  We were disappointed to have one of our Kenwood radios stop working as a result of charging it from the unregulated Nomad 7 solar panel.

Mountain meadow in the Golden Trout Wilderness
When we returned home, we subsequently went to work to solve the issue by regulating the output of the solar panel at a lower safer voltage (see Project: Regulating the 12v Output of the Nomad 7 Solar Panel).  We are looking to our next adventure and packing our (now regulated) Nomad 7 solar panel.  We know we now have the perfect backpacking adventure amateur radio and solar power setup.

See you on the trail.  73.


Articles in this series:

    Other related articles on NJ2X.COM

    © Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2016.

    November 11, 2016

    Engineering stimulates the mind...

    Engineering stimulates the mind.  Kids get bored easily.  The have got to get out and get their hands dirty: make things, dismantle things, fix things.  When the schools can offer that, you'll have an engineer for life.  -- Bruce Dickinson

    November 4, 2016

    Learn things as you go along...

    I am an engineer, but what I find important and necessary is that you just learn things as you go along. -- Terrence Howard