Alex Schwarz, VE7DXW, who developed the online Scanning RF Seismograph to determine which bands are open, is among the many looking forward to the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Although the path of totality will move over Oregon then southeastward toward South Carolina, he believes radio amateurs north of the border can take advantage of this "very exciting celestial event," as those in the US will be doing, and may have an edge of sorts. Members of the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) in the US will sponsor a Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP) to conduct their own research.
The projected path of totality for the August 2017 solar eclipse. The arrows indicate possible HF paths for Canadian radio amateurs.
"This will be spectacular when viewed with our eyes," Schwarz said. "The effects of the solar radiation on the propagation of radio waves will be equally or more exciting." Schwarz said it may appear that Canada won't be a part of the solar eclipse, but British Columbia (BC) will have up to 95% coverage, he pointed out.
"As the solar eclipse is moving over the planet, it is leaving a canyon of de-ionized gas on the ionosphere in altitudes of about 100 to 300 kilometers," Schwarz said. "This puts Canada -- and especially Ontario -- in a very good position to get really long signal paths to the horizon toward the south. Southern Ontario will be in the best location to make contacts into the southern and western US and Central America. In southern BC, we can aim our antennas right down the length of the propagation anomaly and reach the Caribbean and southeastern US." Schwarz said timing is important, because the gas will ionize again after the solar shadow has passed. The entire passage across North America will be approximately 90 minutes.
Schwarz said that during the 1999 solar eclipse in Europe, radio amateurs recorded long-distance contacts on 160 and 80 meters. "We want to inform all amateurs about the opportunity of experiencing the solar eclipse on a totally different level by operating radios in their shacks," he said.
Schwarz encouraged all ham radio clubs to participate in the opportunity, not only to view the eclipse but to experience its effects on radio propagation.
NASA offers much more information about the 2017 solar eclipse.
Thanks to the ARRL for this story.