R/€ = 13.13
R/$ = 12.04
Au 1188.10 $/oz
Pt 1119.50 $/oz
Nov 02, 2007
Pro-Am cooperation creates triple returnBack
© 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)
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
Other News This Week News
Updated 8 minutes ago The figures released by Statistics SA reveal a horror story of unbelievably bad news for workers and the South African economy, said Zwelinzema Vavi on Wednesday. “Now more than ever we need to declare that we have a national emergency. No country can survive such...
Updated 1 hour 24 minutes ago Johannesburg and Cape Town are showing improvement in the spheres of political engagement and human capital respectively, according to a global report. Partner at AT Kearney Johannesburg, Wim Plaizier, told Fin24 that the growth of political engagement in...
Updated 1 hour 33 minutes ago State-owned oil company PetroSA has placed its top three executives‚ including the CEO‚ on gardening leave due to poor performance‚ Business Day reported. The three – CEO Nosizwe Nokwe-Macamo‚ CFO Lindiwe Mthimunye-Bakoro and acting VP of upstream operations Andrew...
Recent Research Reports
Steel 2015: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2015 report provides an overview of the key developments in the global steel industry and particularly of South Africa’s steel sector over the past year, including details of production and consumption, as well as the country's primary carbon...
Projects in Progress 2015 - First Edition (PDF Report)
In fact, this edition of Creamer Media’s Projects in Progress 2015 supplement tracks developments taking place under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which has had four bidding rounds. It appears to remain a shining light on the...
Electricity 2015: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2015 report provides an overview of State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, as well as electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Construction 2015: A review of South Africa’s construction sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2015 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; the key participants in the sector; local construction demand; geographic diversification;...
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
This Week's Magazine
While economic forecasts for the African continent are most favourable, African airlines may not be able to benefit from the expected growth in the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), International Air Transport Association VP: Africa Raphael Kuuchi has warned....
The Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) will need to change substantially post 2020, says Metair Investments South African operations COO Ken Lello. “We must not make tweaks. We have to change. What we are doing is not sustainable.”
Banking group Absa’s forecast is for the rand to end the year at around R13 against the dollar, weakening further to R13.50 by 2016, says Absa sectoral analyst Jacques du Toit. He warns that possible interest rate hikes in the US may see capital being pulled from...
The Dispute Resolution Centre at the Bargaining Council for the Civil Engineering Industry (BCCEI) is now open to handle party-to-party disputes. The BCCEI represents the interests of all level four to nine Construction Industry Development Board companies.
Communications technology firm Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa head Fredrik Jejdling says the company’s commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility has been integrated into all facets of its operations, which has provided it with sustainable revenue...