A Beginners look at Starting Band 2 DX'ing
The beginners part of the title refers to myself! This is how I started DX'ing on the FM Band.
Part Five - Aerials and Propagation
At this stage it is time to turn our attentions to the Aerial. By all means start of with a loft aerial to get the feel of DX'ing. Sporadic E signals vary all the time but during an intense opening you will get good results. However if you intend to seriously DX, then outside it must go. Not only that but on a rotator and whilst your at it put two up, one horizontal and one vertical. If you have the space for this I seriously recommend it.
My experiences with polarisations are thus. I live fairly high up with a good take off in all directions except North West. So I am lucky as very few DX signals come from that direction, just Northern Ireland. Iceland is more towards the north so I get away with that. It does mean however that I have very few clear "DX" frequencies, not so lucky. However the difference is quite marked when switching between horizontal and vertical polarisation. I have far more clear frequencies on the horizontal aerial.
My present aerial setup. I have a 5 element mounted vertically and also a 5 element mounted horizontal. The aerials below the rotator are a 70cms Amateur Beam and a 3 element Band 2 beam.
By being able to switch polarisations has proved a boom with DX'ing. Firstly in the case of tropo, Holland and Belgium are nearly all vertically polarised, most of of Germany is horizontal. With Sporadic E the results have also been quite good. I have at times received stations only on the horizontal aerial, only on the vertical aerial or sometimes just as good on both. Also though I have received two different stations on the same frequency at the same time with PI & PS Codes. So my personal advice is get both. 5 or 8 element will do fine.
The final subject and the one that rules the hobby. No propagation no signals. Are you regular as clockwork? Sporadic E is. It occurs May to August without fail in the U.K. How often it occurs between those months no one can forecast. You can go for days without reception or in a good season the opposite.
It will also occur lower down the frequency spectrum in April, September and October. There are also openings on Band 2 in December and January but these are short lived unlike the summer months which can last for hours. As the name suggests the signals are reflected via the E Layer which becomes ionized enough to reflect rather than pass the signals.
There are many web site giving a lot of technical theories on Sporadic E so just "Google" it to learn more.
Next DX mode is Tropospheric reception or Tropo as we call it. This mode is effected by the weather unlike Sporadic E. Tropo can occur at any time of the year depending on High Pressure Weather Systems and their movements. From the U.K. expect to hear Holland, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and even Spain. Again this depends were the tropo ducting is happening. I have experienced very narrow ducting to the extent I can only hear one transmitter site from Holland to hearing many sites from both Holland and Belgium at the same time. Sometimes you can follow the ducting with sigs from Belgium, then Holland and then switching to Northern Germany and Denmark.
Finally a slightly specialist mode, Meteor Scatter. Don't be put off by the phrase "specialist". Simply find an empty frequency say 87.60MHz or 87.70MHz. Beam east to south east & listen at night or early morning. You will hear stations eventually. They will last literally seconds or even half seconds. You are hearing what we call Pings. Good Pings are strong enough to produce PI Codes. It is simply the radio signal being reflected off the meteor trail. How good the meteor was depends on how long the trail will last which again reflects the length and intensity of the Ping. There are regular meteor showers throughout the year which again can be "Googled". However it is worth remembering that "Random Meteors" are hitting the Earth all the time so you get pings outside the forecast showers.
Finally try your hand at Troposcatter. My favourite is to tune to 87.90MHz when it is clear of RSL stations and beam due east. After a while I start to hear Omroep Zeeland from Goes in Holland at a distance of 450km. It fades in and out of the noise and disappears altogether. This can happen at any time during the day or night depending on local conditions. It can get surprisingly strong.