R/€ = 14.20
R/$ = 11.08
Au 1216.40 $/oz
Pt 1339.00 $/oz
Nov 02, 2007
Pro-Am cooperation creates triple returnBack
Africa|HMO Space Physics Group|PROJECT|Space Physics Group|Africa|South Africa|Hermanus Magnetic Observatory|Radio Communications|Technology Group|Department Of Science And Technology|National Research Foundation|South African Radio League|Lee-Anne McKinnell
© Reuse this A n unprecedented joint project between the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO) and the South African Radio League (SARL) will greatly expand knowledge of a key part of the upper atmosphere, called the ionosphere, over South Africa. It will also stimulate interest in science and technology in schools. And to achieve all this with an expenditure that will amount to only hundreds (yes, hundreds) of rands! The key is simple technology, and enthusiastic, voluntary participation by members of the country’s amateur radio operator community, or radio ‘hams’.
The objective of the project is to study the propagation of radio waves in the 40-m band in the ionosphere over South Africa. “For the purposes of this study, propagation can be defined as the ability of high frequency (HF) radio wave signals to travel through the upper atmosphere,” explains HMO Space Physics Group manager Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell. (HF covers the range 3 MHz to 30 MHz.)
Conditions in the ionosphere affect the propagation of radio waves, and can reduce their range, weaken them, and distort them. Obviously, the consequences for those employing HF radio communications can range from the irritating to the seriously disruptive. Conversely, ionospheric effects on radio wave propagation can tell scientists a lot about the structure and behaviour of the ionosphere.
“This is primarily an applied science project, being of direct importance to HF radio users, but it also has a pure science component,” reports McKinnell. “We will be able to take the propagation reports and use them to verify what we know is happening in the ionosphere from our theories of physics.”
The HMO is a national facility of the National Research Foundation, which falls under the Department of Science and Technology. Its original and continuing function is to monitor the earth’s magnetic field and is part of a global network of such observatories, but today it also has a technology group and the Space Physics Group. The SARL is the voluntary association which encompasses, represents, and supports the country’s radio hams.
This project involves the HMO making use of the SARL membership to create a nationwide network to study HF propagation in the ionosphere.
It will be implemented in two phases. In the first phase, which started last week, 28 simple radio beacons will be set up across the country, while phase two will add another 28, starting next year. These beacons will be spread across the country in a carefully planned network to provide the most possible information.
Two of the beacons will be hosted by the SARL and the HMO and will contain the functionality to use them for special events or competitions. The rest of the beacons will be hosted by licensed radio hams, which allows the HMO to deploy the beacons without having to get individual licences for each and every one of them, as the existing radio amateur licences automatically cover such transmitters. Each beacon is a 40-MW transmitter, operating on a frequency of 7,023 MHz, in the 40-m band, broadcasting in Morse code in the continuous wave mode; each beacon has a high resistance to lightning – a feature that has already been proved in practice.
Although only 56 hams will host beacons, any radio amateur can participate in the project by reporting recep- tion of the beacon signals, providing information on where he or she received the transmission, and how strong it was (which can be determined from the structure of the signal) – such information can be sent to the HMO by email, phone, or even ordinary mail. For the hams, this gives the very real satisfaction and excitement of participating in a serious research programme.
But this aspect of the project also opens the way for schools to participate. Equipped with the necessary receivers, learners can also monitor the beacons and submit reports to the HMO, bringing science and technology live into the classroom. And the SARL has developed a simple and cheap receiver for the schools. It will be supplied in kit form — the schools will not have to pay for them, as they will be sponsored. The plan is for local radio hams to help the children assemble the receivers.
Again, the result is that the learners, like the hams, will be participating with professional physicists in a real science project. To further stimulate the learners, some of the beacons will be transmitting ‘secret messages’ (which will change over time), and there will be competitions to see which schools are the first to decode these messages.
“This project is truly a collaborative project,” concludes McKinnell. “It will benefit the scientists, the hobbyists, and the schools.”
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other News This Week News
Recent Research Reports
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Road and Rail 2014 (PDF Report)
This six-page brief covers key developments in the road and rail industries over the past 12 months, including details of South Africa’s road and rail network and prospects for both sectors.
This Week's Magazine
While Ekurhuleni-based transformer manufacturer Reliable Transformers currently designs, manufactures and tests its products according to the SANS 780 specifications for distribution transformers and other applicable transformer specifications, it is working towards...
Global endpoint security solutions company Kaspersky Lab has introduced new measures to prevent cyber criminals from accessing sensitive data, alongside its malware-signature and heuristic device analysis detection methods. Threats to mobile devices have increased...
To ensure uptake and a positive impact, Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) networks in cities must be provided at schools, community centres and commercial centres to enable citizens and government to access information that will improve access to and delivery of services....
Eco-estate Monaghan Farm, located near Lanseria airport, north-west of Johannesburg, has taken a new approach to modern living and sustainability with its 517 ha development, dedicated to farm living.
Forklift and lift-truck distributor Goscor Lift Hi-Reach launched the Genie SX-180, the tallest self-propelled super boom in Africa, in Johannesburg last month. “As the official distributor of the well-known Genie range of equipment in Southern Africa, we are pleased...