Crowdsourcing The Study Of An Eclipse’s Effect On Radio Propagation

If you are an American, you’ll probably now find yourself in one of three camps. People who are going to see the upcoming solar eclipse that will traverse your continent, people who aren’t going to see the eclipse, and people who wish everyone would just stop going on incessantly about the damn eclipse.

Whichever of those groups you are in though, there is an interesting project that you can be a part of, an effort from the University of Massachusetts Boston to crowdsource scientific observation of the effect a solar eclipse will have on the upper atmosphere, and in particular upon the propagation of low-frequency radio waves. To do this they have been encouraging participants to build their own simple receiver and antenna, and make a series of recordings of the WWVB time signal station before, during, and after the eclipse traverse.

This is an interesting and unusual take upon participation in the eclipse, and has the potential to advance the understanding of atmospheric science. It would be fascinating to also look at the effect of the eclipse on WSPR contacts, though obviously those occur in amateur bands at higher frequencies.

If you are an EclipseMob participant, we’d love to hear from you in the comments. Does your receiver perform well?

Thanks [Douglas] for the tip.

23 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing The Study Of An Eclipse’s Effect On Radio Propagation

    1. Unfortunately you’d still need an upconverter to use an RTLSDR. Then you might as well just use a phone and this downconverter to do the same job with the microphone input.

    1. All my Facebook friends are like “how do I photograph the Sun? What filter do I need to get good eclipse photos?” I’m like “Screw that – video the Earth! Shit is gonna look WEIRD for a few minutes! You can get eclipse photos on Google, but nobody else will have video of your backyard for that three minute timespan.”

  1. “WSPR contacts, though obviously those occur in amateur bands at higher frequencies”
    The lowest WSPR frequency is in the LF band around 136 kHz which is not all that far away from WWVB carrier at 60kHz.

      1. All I can do is point you to wsprnet.org: Frequencies: USB dial (MHz): 0.136, 0.4742, 1.8366, 3.5926, 5.2872, 7.0386, 10.1387, 14.0956, 18.1046, 21.0946, 24.9246, 28.1246, 50.293, 70.091, 144.489, 432.300, 1296.500

        The power level that I can see from the reports are 20 W(US: FCC Experimental Part 5 Grant – authorization to transmit
        100 watts ERP on 470 – 495 KHz……. 50 watts ERP on 130-140 KHz…….. 10 watts ERP on 68-76 KHz), down to 10mW (Germany), which must be below legal limits.

      1. For TX yes, but surely not for RX. And WSPR can easily be configured for RX only, there are plenty of unlicensed short wave listeners reporting spots on wsprnet.org.

        Looking at some of the recent LF spots on wsprnet.org:
        1KW TX has travel 13345 km (8,292 miles)
        50W TX has travel 9429 km ( 5,859 miles )
        there are even some
        5W TX that has travelled 5473 km (3,400 miles)

        Considering the United States from coast to coast Horizontal Width: 2,680 miles and it has a vertical height: 1,582 miles.
        There is plenty of room for a spot to be transmitted by

        The circumference of Earth (at the equator is) about 40075 km (24,901 miles).

        Eye-balling the above numbers to me means that the US could receive WSPR transmissions from more than half the planet (depending on TX laws). In fact since no TX is currently allowed within the US, the propagation distance may be even further with less interference.

        1. If I had an edit button I’d delete that half finished thought “There is plenty of room for a spot to be transmitted by …”, I was probably thinking that I’ll delete/edit it later. I really need to start reading back every single word that I type, twice, before I hit the “post comment” button.

  2. This would of been nice it It had been put up earlier. There is no time for me to order these parts. Or get ready just a few days before the event. So So sad.
    Great article thow.

    1. I know, right.

      I sent it in withing five minutes of running across it, knowing time was getting a bit short. I’m in the same boat you are, but maybe some others have the parts and can pull it off at the last minute.

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