Comet Neowise (C/2020 F3)

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE (Neowise, for short) is the third comet this year to be discovered by astronomers. It may become a bright, naked eye object, beginning July 11, if it survives its closest approach to The Sun. Some comets either breakup or fall into The Sun at perihelion.

Neowise has already made an appearance in the early morning hours, and some have taken photographs.

Neowise over Toronto

The comet will make its closest approach to Earth on July 23, which may make for a spectacular viewing opportunity if it holds together. Neowise will also be a bit higher in the sky on July 24 and 25.

There hasn’t been a bright comet since Hale-Bopp in 1997. However, comets are notoriously unpredictable, and this one could break up and burn out at any time. 

Here’s where you can spot the comet beginning Sunday, July 11. Online resources like TheSkyLive also offer similar night sky maps. 

June 2020 Weather Summary

June was 0.1 deg F above normal for temperature. The high for the month was 88 deg. F recorded on June 9. The low for the month was 41 deg F, recorded on June 1. There were 71 heating degree days and 168 cooling degree days.

June was an above normal month for precipitation with 4.80 inches of rainfall recorded, which was 0.94 inches above normal. The maximum rainfall in a single day was 1.56 inches recorded on June 4. There were 8 days of rain >.01 in, 7 >.10 in and 1 >1 in.

High wind speed of 32 mph on June 3.

June 2020 Data

Outlook for July 2020

Field Day 2020

Field Day 2020

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day is the most popular on-the-air event held each year, on the fourth weekend in June, in The United States and Canada. More than 40000 radio amateurs gather to operate from remote locations. It is a time where many aspects of amateur radio come together to highlight its many roles. It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate its emergency capabilities to organizations and the general public. Despite the development of modern communications systems, they can fail. When they do, amateur radio can provide communications support during emergencies and post-disaster situations.

This year was different due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Instead of gathering and setting up at public locations, amateur radio operators (hams) were encouraged to operate from home. In addition, one rule was waived to allow those operating on commercial power to contact other stations that were also operating on commercial power. All other rules applied. Some hams operated on power provided by batteries, generators, solar panels, or other means not using commercial power.

Hams across North America communicated using voice, morse code (carrier wave or CW), and many digital modes. They operated to make as many contacts as possible from 2 PM EDT on Saturday until 2 PM EDT on Sunday. According to the rules, those that waited until 2 PM Saturday to set up their stations were permitted to operate until 8 PM on Sunday.

As for myself, I made 28 contacts on the 20 and 40-meter bands using the digital phase shift keying 31 baud mode (PSK31). Each contact sent digitally is worth 2 points each. Since I used only 50 watts of power, I qualified for a multiplier of 2, so my score was 112 points. I also sent 10 formal radiograms (100 points), including one to the ARRL Western Pennsylvania Section Manager (another 100 points). Finally, I submitted my Field Day entry electronically (another 50 points). My preliminary total was 462 points. I made contacts in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Ontario.

Summary of Spring 2020

Meteorological Spring is officially over. Here is a brief summary of March 1 – May 31, 2020 in Stormstown, PA:  

Number of Days Max T <= 32 F: 0  
Number of Days Min T <= 32 F: 30    
Max T: 85.9 F – May 26, 2020  
Min T: 22.1 F – March 1, 2020  

Mar Dep from Normal: 6.6 F  
Apr Dep from Normal: -3.1 F  
May Dep from Normal: -1.8 F
 
Heating Degree Days: 1505
Cooling Degree Days: 56

Mar Precip: 5.26″, 1.71″ above normal  
Apr Precip: 5.06″, 1.67″ above normal  
May Precip: 1.72″, 1.51″ below normal      

The outlook for Summer 2020:

May 2020 Weather Summary

May was 1.8 deg F below normal for temperature. The high for the month was 8r6 F, recorded on May 26. The low for the month was 27.2 deg F, recorded on May 9. There were 3 days at or below 32 F. There were 291 heating degree days and 54 cooling degree days.

May was a below-normal month for precipitation with 1.72 inches of rainfall recorded, which was 1.51 inches below normal. The maximum rainfall in a single day was 0.43 inches recorded on May 6. There were 11 days of rain >.01 in, 4 >.10 in and 0 > 1 in.

High wind speed of 38 mph on May 9.

May 2020 Data

Outlook for June 2020

April 2020 Weather Summary

April was 3.1 deg F below normal for temperature. The high for the month was 69.8 F, recorded on April 8. The low for the month was 24.2 deg F, recorded on April 17. There were 7 days at or below 32 F. There were 557 heating degree days and 1 cooling degree day.

April was an above-normal month for precipitation with 5.06 inches of rainfall recorded, which was 1.67 inches above normal. The maximum rainfall in a single day was 1.34 inches recorded on April 30. There were 15 days of rain >.01 in, 10 >.10 in and 1 > 1 in.

It snowed two inches on April 18, which had all but melted by the end of the following day.

High wind speed of 42 mph on April 10.

One kind reader remarked that this April seemed to be windier than usual. Here are the wind data for April during the past 5 years (2016-2020):

Year Wind Run (mi) Avg (mph) High (mph)
2016 2850 4.0 43
2017 3200 4.4 38
2018 3500 4.8 53
2019 3050 4.2 45
2020 3350 4.7 42

Wind run is the total distance of the traveled wind over a period of time.

April Wind RunBy any measure, April 2018 was the windiest during the past 5 years.

April 2020 Data

Outlook for May 2020

2020 Spring SET

Today was the 2020 Spring Simulated Emergency Test (SET) amateur radio network in western Pennsylvania. The SET is a training exercise involving the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the National Traffic System (NTS), a message-handling service of amateur radio.  Its primary purposes are to evaluate strengths and weaknesses in emergency preparedness and communications and to demonstrate amateur radio to the public.

My simulated position was at The Grays Woods Elementary School Emergency Shelter. However, I was actually operating from my home VHF/UHF and HF base stations. We were all sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was mainly operating on 75 meters using the Olivia digital mode.

We were sending formal formatted messages to net control. I sent three pieces of traffic containing shelter status. However, it got a bit silly at the end of the exercise. There was a message announcing the touch down of a tornado west of Pine Grove Mills in The PSU Ag fields. Then there was a voice message concerning a hungry elephant found in a closet at Juniper Village.

March 2020 Weather Summary

March was 6.6 deg F above normal for temperature. The high for the month was 72.5 deg. F, recorded on March 20. The low for the month was 22.1 deg F, recorded on March 1. There were 10 days at or below 32 F. There were 657 heating degree days and 0 cooling degree days.

March was an above-normal month for precipitation with 5.26 inches of rainfall recorded, which was 1.71 inches above normal. The maximum rainfall in a single day was 1.78 inches recorded on March 28. There were 19 days of rain >.01 in, 9 >.10 in and 1 > 1 in.

High wind speed of 47 mph on March 3.

March 2020 Data

Outlook for April 2020

UV Index

Astronomical Spring begins on March 19. In addition to blooming trees and plants, the UV index is rising above the threshold where sunburn becomes an issue. My weather station has a UV sensor and I have already observed an increase in the UV index above the value of 2.UV Index 2020 When the UV index exceeds 2, skin and eye damage is possible. Suncreen with an SPF value of at least 30 should be applied. Stay in the shade if possible and wear a hat and wear sunglasses.

UV - Copy
The increased UV radiation does have some benefit. Your skin makes vitamin D naturally when it is exposed to UV rays from the sun. Vitamin D has many health benefits. It might even help lower the risk of some cancers. At this time, doctors aren’t sure what the optimal level of vitamin D is, but a lot of research is being done in this area. However, it’s better to get vitamin D from your diet or vitamin supplements rather than from exposure to UV rays. Dietary sources and vitamin supplements do not increase skin cancer risk, and are typically more reliable ways to get the amount you need.

More Antenna Woes

Being an amateur radio operator, I occasionally have to deal with equipment maintenance issues. I first noticed the problem when I found it difficult to communicate with several nearby VHF/UHF repeaters. Then, I noticed that my HF radio would not tune on 75 meters. I checked on all of my indoor cables and found no problems, so I ventured outside and noticed the following significant damage to my amateur radio antenna system.

Apparently, an animal had chewed through my VHF/UHF feed line. My dogs didn’t do it because it was outside of the fence.

There was also damage to the HF ladder line feed to my G5RV antenna. There were many visible tooth marks. The coax around the balun was destroyed. These components we’re well outside of the fence.

I used an auxiliary feed as a temporary fix for my VHF/UHF Yagi. I needed to obtain a new G5RV antenna.

Update: 3/4/2020
I installed a new G5RV antenna today. I also cleaned the corrosion from my feed line connectors at the balun. I was able to tune up on 75 meters.