Fall 2007 Issue
Fifty years ago the
International Council for Scientific Unions (now known as the
International Council for Science, or ICSU) oversaw an 18-month period
of worldwide scientific exploration and research known as the
International Geophysical Year, or IGY. Amateur radio operators were
invited to participate in the research as it related to propagation.
Here WA2VVA documents some of the amateur-radio-related research that
took place during the IGY.
Figure 1. This is the first page of the first issue of the “PRP News,” a special newsletter that published reports of significance and useful information for “PRP Observers.”
The International Geophysical Year (IGY) was
an 18-month period starting in July 1957 and ending in December 1958.
Timed to coincide with the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle, it was a
cooperative effort of scientists, amateur as well as professional, from
around the world.
Over the past year and a half QST has carried a number of articles describing various sections of the Minitrack system of satellite tracking as developed at the Naval Research Laboratory. The NRL activity is part of the work of a special group in the U.S. National Committee for the IGY. Dr. Pickering, head of this Working Group on Tracking Computation, issues here an official invitation to qualified amateur groups to participate in the volunteer satellite-tracking program—now known as “Project Moonbeam.”
Through the efforts of the ARRL, which coordinated amateur radio activities through its “Propagation Research Project,” VHF enthusiasts also collected data on various modes of VHF propagation, including aurora, meteor scatter, transequatorial and sporadic-E. A special newsletter called the “PRP News” published reports of significance and useful information for “PRP Observers,” including beacon frequencies, identification of special observing days called the “world days,” and myriad other items of interest. Figure 1 is a reproduction of the first issue.
The propagation data collected through the “PRP News” was to be analyzed by PRP staffers and the U.S. Air Force through its Cambridge Research Center. Looking for patterns in monthly heard and worked reports, it was hoped that new discoveries might be made, particularly with regard to transequatorial propagation. This mode of propagation was discovered by radio amateurs in 1947 and was a major reason for recruiting them during the IGY.
The PRP expressed interest in all forms of propagation save one—tropospheric ducting. Yet it was via tropospheric ducting that arguably the greatest amateur accomplishment of the IGY took place.
From “PRP News” January 1957:
What We’re Not Interested In
Reports of ground-wave work out to 75 or 100
miles will not be of use in PRP. Likewise, we are not concerned with
contacts made by tropospheric propagation. This includes those due to
air mass boundary bending and duct effects caused by the changing
weather pattern, and those due to scattering from the troposphere.
Either of these will provide contacts out to perhaps 500 miles, the
former with irregular, strong signals, and the latter with consistent,
weak ones. Since we are studying ionospheric propagation only, reports
of such tropospheric work are not solicited.
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