6m Openings — Learn about Sporadic E Skip, Antenna Options and Being a Smarter Operator.

    I saw my first widespread emails alerting me to 6m and FM broadcast band (88-108MHz) openings this week.  Tis the Season!    
    6m opens up from about May thru August.   It’s most widespread and predictable during June and July.  There is a secondary peak in Dec.-Jan, and honestly, 6 can open up at any time of the year.  But easily 70-80% of the fireworks is during the summer.  The propagation mode responsible for most of the openings is Sporadic E skip.   Google that term and you’ll learn far more than I can say here.   A typical 1-hop distance on 6m via Es is about 600-1200 miles.  There can be more than 1 hop, too.    I’m going to try to keep this short, and just hit the highlights.   If you become addicted to 6m, you can learn far more.   
   A reason even casual VHF’ers love 6m is that often times, you can work a lot of the DX with modest antennas, not very high up.   In fact,  sporadic Es can favor *lower* antennas, due to the high angle of the incoming signal.   A good station on 6m often has several antenna options.   A gain yagi higher up is good for working stations out to 200-300 miles via brute force, anytime, just like we strive to do on 2m, or 222 or 432 MHz.   A low yagi will often outperform the higher yagi during E skip openings, sometimes by a wide margin.  How low?  20-30′ will do.  You can also put a horizontal loop (or stack 2 for an extra 3db gain) to have the option of an omni pattern.    Some fellows swear by using a vertical, saying the polarity of a signal via E skip gets all scrambled up anyway.  Most 6m ops I know prefer horizontal, and that’s the way I roll, but hey —  try different antennas and learn for yourself.  
    To be perfectly honest, I have worked guys using loaded rain gutters, lawn chair squalos, G5RV’s and HF beams that were able to load up.   Heck, I once stumbled into a fellow who was mobile in western Nebraska.   He had 25w into a 1/4 wave mag mount, and he was at least S3-S5 for a half hour.   6m is called the Magic Band for a variety of reasons.    I have had times where the band opened up for just a minute.   I’ll hear guys with different accents ragchewing and before they even unkey the mic, they’re gone.   6 is a ball.   🙂   The more time you put into it, the more you will get out of it.  
    Because it gets very busy at times, it’s a good idea to know what you’re doing.   6 has always had a reputation for being a gentlemanly band, with good manners and intelligent ops.   Go here http://www.smirk.org/opaids.html and take some time to learn what’s up.   I can tell you one way to not aggravate anyone.   Leave the DX window of 50.100-125 alone, unless you’re hearing a) the Caribbean b) Alaska or Hawaii or c) the World.   DX on 6m is not US/US contacts, nor US/VE.    Now, there will be times (contests and especially Field Day) where you’ll hear domestic QSO’s in the DX window.   It’s an innocent mistake, 90% of the time.   Often times, a short, courteous explanation about the DX window is useful.   It helps the op making the mistake, and it probably educates many others who are listening along.

One Response to “6m Openings — Learn about Sporadic E Skip, Antenna Options and Being a Smarter Operator.”

  1. N3OW Jay Says:

    nice opening today 05 05 11 worked ar and ga from PA