Our radio adventures (by )

My last post was about amateur radio in general, but for those of you who are interested, here's a summary of where we're at and where we're heading.

Jean and I did the Foundation Licence course together and passed, so we have UK Foundation licences. That means we can transmit in nearly every amateur frequency allocation, covering the HF, VHF, UHF and microwave bands discussed in my blog post. We're limited to ten watts of output power (details vary slightly in some bands), which is enough to do most things: at that power level you can communicate over intercontinental distances on HF, especially using Morse or data modes. I'd like to progress to the higher levels of licence, not so much for the increased power levels (although those might be handy), but because at Intermediate level you can use transmitters you have built yourself; and at the Full level, you can operate outside of the UK (as that level of licence meets the requirements of international radio law).

What we've done so far:

  • Obtained FM VHF/UHF handhelds - the ubiquitous Baofeng UV-5Rs - and experimented with external accessories for them; we have a magmount antenna on the car and a UV-5R hooked up to the 12v socket in the car and a fist make, as a cheap mobile rig, and various different headsets, antennas, and pouches to find comfy ways to wear the things out and about.
  • I've tinkered with antenna construction; I built a quarter-wavelength vertical with a radials, hinged so it collapses down flat, for the VHF amateur band. It seems to work pretty well.
  • Chatted to each other on the handhelds. We've done some experiments for the sake of it around town, and used them to usefully keep in touch at a couple of outdoor events.
  • I've played with APRS a bit. I didn't explain that in my last blog post: it's a protocol for announcing position and basic status information in digital data packets over the radio, meaning you can track the positions of other stations near you.
  • Chatted to each other on a local repeater, as an experiment. (Repeaters are set up by volunteers on tall masts so they have a good view of a lot of the local area, and re-broadcast your signal for you, so that two people down on the ground amongst buildings and obstructions can still talk to each other).
  • I've joined in some conversations with strangers on the local repeaters, but it's still a bit nerve-wracking doing so!
  • I've done some experiments with building simple HF antennas and hooking them up to a wide-band receiver I already have, and picked up a few signals - but mainly noise at home.

Things we're interested in doing include:

  • Volunteering with the local RAYNET group, to get some practice in doing useful things with short-range comms (VHF and UHF). In particular, we both want to gain experience with radio etiquette and build up confidence.
  • Talking to the International Space Station, which our licences allow - we have all the required equipment apart from a more directional antenna! We'll probably start with relaying digital data from the ISS digipeater as it doesn't rely on an astronaut being around to say hi.
  • Talking to amateur satellites; requires the same equipment as the ISS, but involves talking to other people on the ground. This will be fun because (a) SPACESHIP!!!! and (b) you get to talk to people much further away.
  • Getting onto HF! Our home isn't great for an HF antenna installation, from my experiments, so I'm interested in "portable operation". This looks fun - there are contests such as SOTA based around making contacts from hilltops and mountaintops, or IOTA for making contacts from islands - and I like the flexibility of being able to set up anywhere.
  • Getting a VHF/UHF antenna on the roof at home, with a base station transceiver. I'd like to be able to sit at my desk and monitor the local repeater, for instance, so that Jean can get in touch with me while she's out and about. Access to our chimney is tricky and my desk is in the workshop which is at the other end of the garden to the house (requiring a long cable or an expensive remote-controlled transceiver), so I might need to build a small mast on top of the workshop: the signal might be good enough for the repeater, at least, and making a truss mast out of aluminium would be a fun welding project.
  • Maybe build a "magnetic loop" HF antenna on the workshop roof; those are supposed to get better results in circumstances such as mine. Experiments must be done!
  • We both want to learn Morse; this opens up the ability to make longer-distance contacts with smaller, cheaper, transmitters, and is kinda fun in its own right.

Amateur radio (by )

The radio spectrum is a complicated and varied thing.

Although some people seem to separate "radio" from "microwaves", I tend to lump them together, so I'm going to consider "the radio spectrum" to be the section of the electromagnetic spectrum from the very lowest frequencies we can usefully use (a few Hertz) up to frequencies that we'd start to count as "infrared light" (several terahertz).

Those bounds are based on practicality - for very low frequencies, the antennas required to efficiently transmit become impractically large and the bandwidth available to communicate gets ridiculously low; at very high frequencies, our electronics cannot process the signals and we have to switch to optical methods, which is a whole different ballgame.

I'm going to give you a whirlwind tour of the radio spectrum - but with an agenda: I'm just setting the scene so I can talk to you about amateur radio... Read more »

Protected: Moon Mania PechKucha Talk (by )

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Gaia – Llanthony 2019 (by )

This weekend starting tomorrow there is going to be a giant Earth floating in the grounds of the historical site Llanthony Secunda Priory and Moon Mania Mega Make my community textiles project will be there with it 🙂

Scout Sewing MoonMania

It will be there from 10 am till 5 pm for three days:

Friday 28th of June Saturday 29th of June Sunday 30th of June

I will be there from 1 pm on the Friday, 2 pm on the Saturday and all day Sunday. If the weathers nice I will be outside by the coffee van if it's bad I'll be inside. This will also be the first proper outing of Moon Memories where I hope to snag people and get them to tell me their tales of the moon landings and space race or what their aspirations for the future of space exploration is. This is for a legacy piece which will result in a book and website and my hope is to archive these stories properly so that they are not lost to the sands of time (or moon dust!).

Gaia is part of Gloucester's amazing Earth and Moon festival which will be going on through out the summer and autumn and includes events at the Libraries including their annual reading challenge which is space themed, cinema at the GuildHall, the accompanying Moon to Gaia will be in the Cathedral later in the Year, and of course last but not least there is the Museum of Gloucester which has a Moon Exhibition which is opening this Saturday (29th of June 2019) starting with a kids craft corner focused on International Asteroid Day. I myself will be doing talks, creative writing that's moon themed as well as rock handling at the Museum.

MoonMania Talks and Rock Handling

Some of the events can be found in the SoMac brochure, some in the museums and libraries and Guildhalls own brochures 🙂

I also have various poetry, arts and science talks planned starting on Tuesday with a little PechaKucha talk at Liquor and Chow.

Moon Mania Creative Writing and Spoken Word

Now back to Gaia - this is an amazing installation that is going on a tour around the UK and is made by Luke Gerram with imagery from NASA. I am very excited to have the chance to be involved for Moon Mania!

Gaia is the name of the Greek Goddess who made/is the Earth, that which gave birth to everything, in Earth and Planetary Sciences we have the Gaia Hypothesis which takes the planet as a kind of mega organism with each part - trees, animals, sea, weather - all being part of the whole and what affects one affects the other. Computer Gamers will also be well aware of these concepts!

I have a mini obsession with Gaia so here is one of my favourite art making and concept creating videos about another fabulous art inspired by Mother Earth:

Rebirth of Gaea

Oh and I am looking for as many people as possible to be involved with the Mega Make!

Moon Mania Mega Make community textiles project

Moon Mania Mega Make Press Info (by )

MoonMania Mega Make is a community textiles project being created as part of the celebration of human kind reaching the moon 50 yrs ago in the Apollo programme - we walked on another world! It is also a chance to look at the amazing things that have been discovered during this new human endeavour -- space travel and where it is possibly heading in the future.

The project will produce a series of banners each using a different style and form of textiles or fabric art. The first piece is a large embroidery of Sarah Snell-Pym's Celestial Montage, a multimedia piece originally produced as part of the European Space Agency's Create Your Space project. The second is a rag rug using the designs Tanya Feasey.

The idea of the project is to get as many people as possible involved so please come along and add a stitch or more and if you wish you can be added to the wall of fame.

Along side the MoonMania Mega Make, there will be the opportunity to share your memories or those of older relatives and friends of the Moon Landings and Space Race. Or just maybe how space has inspired you!

These Moon Memories will be going into a legacy piece of art and science communication so that they are not lost to the sands of time (or moon dust for that matter), it includes a print book and website.

Other parts of MoonMania include talks, rock handling, poetry and creative writing, spacecraft workshops for children and puppetry.

Celestial Montage ESA_space_inspiration

Creatives Sewing Celestial Montage

Stitching the Sun

Mum stitching Celestial Montage in Cookes Coffee and Curios

Large Celestial Montage Banner

Blood Red Super Moon

Moon Mania Mega Make at the Cheltenham Science Festival

Scout Sewing MoonMania

Marking out the missions patch for Cub group to embroider

Moon Mania badges

Moon Half - my first attempt at astrophotography

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales