November 13, 2017

The Aurora Beacon

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The "Aurora Beacon" transmits on 3.579 and 10.144 MHz with the callsign DK0WCY and on 5.195 MHz with the callsign DRA5. The beacon is located at the QTH of Emil Johannsen DK4LI in northern Germany in grid locator JO44vq. In its CW identifier loop beside its callsign the beacon continuously also sends a data group of four elements consisting of numbers and letters containing the current K index and MUF and indicating if there are unusual propagation conditions in progress or forecasted, like for instance Radio Aurora. At specific times every hour there are also more detailed broadcasts with geophysical and solar-terrestrial data, warnings, and forecasts, in CW, PSK31, and RTTY.

A schedule and information on the format of the broadcasts can be found on the beacon's website. On the website you can also read the history of this fascinating beacon, and how in pre-internet times it was set up mainly to alert the radio amateur community of Aurora conditions being in progress, the only other way of being alerted at the time being part of a telephone network of interested radio amateurs.

The Aurora Beacon somewhere around 2003 with Emil DK4LI.

Blank DRA5 QSL card as found on
The Aurora Beacon is a project of the DARC Ortsverband Süderbrarup M15 and the beacon manager is Ulrich Mueller DK4VW. I haven't been able to find out who founded the Aurora Beacon, and in what year, but looking at the photo above of around 2003 with the "20 Jahre DK0WCY" sign, I guess it must have been at least somewhere in the early 1980s.

Below you can listen to a recording I made of the DRA5 beacon on 5.195 MHz today with a CW datagram. The complete datagram reads as follows:

VVV DE DRA5 2/13/N/N
VVV DE DRA5 2/13/N/N

CONDS 13 NOV 1534 UT =
MAG   KIEL K  2 2   KCUR  2.3 2.3 =
IONO   RUEGEN FOF2  4.2 4.2   MUF  13 13   MAXHOP  2263 2263   MUF 1K  7 7 =
SUN   WIND  374 374   DENSITY  5 5   BZ  0 0   XRAY  A7 A7   FLARE  NONE
= =
= =
R  0 0   SSNE  NA NA   FLUX  69 69   BOULDER A  6 6   KIEL A  9 9

VVV DE DRA5 2/12/N/N
VVV DE DRA5 2/12/N/N

If the third element in the CW identifier data group is an A instead of an N, Auroral propagation conditions are in progress. Below, beside links related to the Aurora Beacon, also some links to webpages about Radio Aurora. During Auroral conditions I've heard the eerie sounding CW and SSB signals on 2m, but I haven't managed to make a QSO yet, and it's still on my amateur radio bucket list. Keeping an eye on the DX cluster and regularly monitoring the Aurora Beacon will hopefully alert me in time to the next Aurora opening.

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