Archive - December 2011

Comet Lovejoy Plunges into the Sun and Survives


This morning, an armada of spacecraft witnessed something that many experts thought impossible.  Comet Lovejoy flew through the hot atmosphere of the sun and emerged intact.

“It’s absolutely astounding,” says Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC.  “I did not think the comet’s icy core was big enough to survive plunging through the several million degree solar corona for close to an hour, but Comet Lovejoy is still with us.”

The comet’s close encounter was recorded by at least five spacecraft: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and twin STEREO probes, Europe’s Proba2 microsatellite, and the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.  The most dramatic footage so far comes from SDO, which saw the comet go in and then come back out again.

Click here for Movie 1

Click here for Movie 2

In the SDO movies, the comet’s tail wriggles wildly as the comet plunges through the sun’s hot atmosphere only 120,000 km above the stellar surface. This could be a sign that the comet was buffeted by plasma waves coursing through the corona.  Or perhaps the tail was bouncingcorono back and forth off great magnetic loops known to permeate the sun’s atmosphere. No one knows.

This coronagraph image (Movie right) from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory shows Comet Lovejoy receding from the sun after its close encounter.

Click here for Movie 3

The horizontal lines through the comet’s nucleus are digital artifacts caused by saturation of the detector; Lovejoy that that bright!

Latest cards to bureau……


337 Labels printed and cards now processed for the latest batch of cards for John G4RCG.

66 cards were for Japan and they will go Direct to the JARL Bureau and all the remainder will go to the RSGB bureau in the next package.

GB0ANT cards to bureau…..


484 GB0ANT and 88 GB4IPY Qsl Cards processed today and ready for the next shipment to the RSGB Bureau in two weeks time.

T32C – Christmas Island DXpedition by FSDXA – Update….


Other records that we broke included the band records for 30m,15m and 12m and those for CW (102,216), SSB (88,416) and RTTY (19,225). Another record was with North America (109,327).


Just a word about our 6m operation. Not only did the container fail to arrive, but Kazu JA1RJU, our 6m guru, had to cancel his participation at the last minute for health reasons (as we reported in a previous bulletin). It was left to team members Michael DG1MGZ, Mike G3WPH and Bob MD0CCE to learn “on the job”. Not only did they manage seven EME QSOs in two continents (it would have been more, but the 6m linear developed a fault), but they also managed 103 terrestrial QSOs, including some quite long-haul ones into the USA and South America (possibly due to some early 6m F2 propagation?).


We are regularly asked what happened to the shipping container with its six tonnes of gear. The good news is that, while we were let down by local agents and shippers in the Pacific area, there is no problem with shipping on the main routes, and it is currently on its way back to the UK, scheduled to arrive in late January.


Full details of how to request a “traditional” QSL appear on our website, so are not repeated here. You can send a direct or bureau card, or make an online request. The card design has been finalised and we plan to start mailing cards in January after the Christmas postal rush.

As for Logbook of the World, we promised an upload within six months and, in practice, it will be very much earlier. We wanted to upload as clean a log as possible and have made some 500+ editorial changes to the log as a result of feedback from the log uploads to Club Log and notes received from many of the Deserving. But we are very conscious that many of you want to do a DXCC update before year-end. Therefore, LoTW permitting, we plan to start the upload on 15 December 2011, just over six frenetic weeks after our return from T32C. Uploading 213k QSOs is a huge task and we don’t necessarily expect it to go smoothly first time (D68C, 3B9C and 3B7C all experienced problems), so the upload may take several days to complete.

We have a team of 10 QSL managers ready to start processing the T32C cards and we estimate that we will eventually confirm around 140,000 QSOs.

StarQSL, our internet-based QSLing system, has been enhanced recently by its author John G3WGV. Major developments include a new batch import facility to work directly with Club Log’s OQRS, incorporating an address label printing facility. We will be printing direct to QSL cards this time. Various improved ergonomics have also been introduced to help speed up the QSLing programme.

Just a word too about QSLing our earlier DXpeditions, as T32C has prompted renewed interest in getting missing cards from those trips. The following have taken over QSLing responsibilities for our 3B7C and 3B9C DXpeditions:

3B7C QSLs should now be sent to:

Jim Steel M0ZAK

6 Central Avenue


Leics LE12 9HP

United Kingdom

3B9C QSLs should now be sent to:

Derek Moffatt G3RAU

Mill House

Middle Street

Glentworth, Gainsborough

Lincs DN21 5BZ

United Kingdom

Email addresses for both Jim M0ZAK and Derek G3RAU are shown on


An early DXpedition write up has already appeared in the WIA (Australia) journal and one is in preparation for Brazil (in Portuguese, tnx PY2WAS). The RSGB’s RadCom will carry a four-page article in the January issue and the latest edition of the CDXC (Chiltern DX Club, the UK DX Foundation) Digest is very much a “T32C Special”. We have also accepted invitations to present at Dayton and Visalia and at next year’s RSGB Convention as well as at the LADX (Norway) and ARI (Italian) events. We expect to feature on the programme at Friedrichshafen and other national and local clubs over the next 12 months.

DVD, etc.

A DVD is currently in preparation and orders can be placed via the website. We expect it to start shipping in January – there is 25 hours of material to be edited down! The DVD will also include the 3B7C story.


Once again, we want to offer our thanks to every individual and organisation who have supported our efforts to put Christmas Island on the air in a big way. We have acknowledged all sponsors on our website. By the completion of the project and thanks to our sponsors (corporate, club and individual), donations through OQRS and with QSL cards, and taking into account projected sales of some of our equipment, we expect to just about break-even.

We must, though, finally add our thanks to the staff of the Captain Cook Hotel and, indeed, to all those local residents we met on the island. It’s a great place, with good fishing and a friendly welcome from all.

And to all our fellow amateurs, a Happy Christmas from those of us who encountered ‘Christmas’ early this year!



11 Years to escape the grips of Antarctica!


As part of a natural cycle, ice shelves periodically calve icebergs.

In March 2000, Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf released a mammoth berg nearly the size of Connecticut. Named B-15, it was one of the largest icebergs ever observed. B-15 broke into smaller pieces, but it mostly remained trapped in cold climate conditions and lasted more than a decade.

One fragment of B-15, dubbed B-15J, made an appearance in satellite imagery in early December 2011, The iceberg had finally strayed far from Antarctica 11 years later, and began breaking into smaller pieces. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of B-15J on 2nd December, 2011.

Sliver-shaped pieces of ice form an arc around the oblong iceberg, which had disintegrated discernibly since last spotted in late November. B-15J and the smaller fragments were roughly 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) east-southeast of New Zealand. Floating into warmer waters prompted it to break apart. An iceberg from the Larsen Ice Shelf underwent a similar disintegration in 2008.

As of late November 2011, several other remnants of Iceberg B-15 were still drifting in the Southern Ocean.

GR2HQ cards to bureau….


275 GR2HQ Cards completed this morning and in bundle destined for the RSGB Bureau at the end of this week.

I have no outstanding bureau cards at all now so if you requested one, it must be in the system by now!

Don’t forget, if you need a card from any station I manage, then please use the OQRS system which will cut down the time in which you receive your card by half, making it far more efficient way to obtain the confirmation.

‘New Horizons’ Becomes Closest Spacecraft to Approach Pluto


NASA’s New Horizons mission reached a special milestone yesterday on its way to reconnoiter the Pluto system, coming closer to Pluto than any other spacecraft.

It’s taken New Horizons 2,143 days of high-speed flight – covering more than a million kilometers per day for nearly six years—to break the closest-approach mark of 1.58 billion kilometers set by NASA’s Voyager 1 in January 1986

“What a cool milestone!” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute. “Although we’re still a long way — 1.5 billion kilometers from Pluto — we’re now in new territory as the closest any spacecraft has ever gotten to Pluto, and getting closer every day by over a million kilometers.

Now New Horizons, which is healthy, on course and closer to Pluto than Voyager ever came, will continue to set proximity-to-Pluto records every day until its closest approach – about 7,767 miles (12,500 kilometers) from the planet – on July 14, 2015.

“We’ve come a long way across the solar system,” says Glen Fountain, New Horizons project manager at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “When we launched [on Jan. 19, 2006] it seemed like our 10-year journey would take forever, but those years have been passing us quickly. We’re almost six years in flight, and it’s just about three years until our encounter begins.”

From New Horizons’ current distance to Pluto – about as far as Earth is from Saturn – Pluto remains just a faint point of light. But by the time New Horizons sails through the Pluto system in mid-2015, the planet and its moons will be so close that the spacecraft’s cameras will spot features as small as a football field. image_full

New Horizons is currently in hibernation, with all but its most essential systems turned off, speeding away from the Sun at more than 55,500 kilometers per hour. Operators at the Applied Physics Lab will “wake” the spacecraft in January for a month of testing and maintenance activities.

Check the New Horizons homepage for more information and updates en route to Pluto:

Qsl cards to Bureau (or Direct)…….


Qsl cards processed:

4.5 (3 x 1.5Kg) to the
RSGB Bureau plus, 1.5 Kg to JARL; and 1.5Kg Direct to World Bureau’s (via M0URX)….these included;

V55A – 136


M0BZH – 8
PX2C 27
PYMTV – 13, PW2D43, G3SZU1 M0OXO – 134, MR0OXO – 15, M0IAA – 3, MR0IAA – 1, RA3CQ12, G4RCG32, GR4RCG6, GB6WRS – 4……and a further 115 letters Direct from OQRS and Post Mail for V55A and 47 other Direct requests for various other cards.