My little dog Jasper needs to go out first thing in the morning, so a little after 5:00 AM we made our way out through the garage and back door into the waning Minnesota night.
There it was - staring us right in the face: The constellation Orion, marching into the southeastern sky with his faithful hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, following behind. The thing is... Orion is a WINTER constellation. It hardly seems like winter can be knocking at our door when the temperatures here have been over 90 degrees and it is, after all, still three weeks until autumn equinox.
But there it is: The days are getting shorter and that means we will slide quickly down the steep slope of the analemma - the thingy on a globe that looks like a number "8" bisecting the equator.
A slide down toward autumn and into winter is fast, and we will notice that the daylight hours are quickly fading here in the northern hemisphere even as they grow longer south of the equator. Less daylight will mean less sun to create the annoying D-layer absorption on the 80 meter band, and that means that it is time to think about how you can leverage 80 and 75 meters to have some great contacts that can range from local and regional to DX! This morning, with Jasper busy burying his snout in his food bowl, I decided to wake up the ham shack for the day and started by dialing across the 75 meter band. It was still well before sunrise, but there was some thunderstorm static skipping in from the southern states. There were also plenty of 5-area callsigns on the air, meaning that 75 meters was a clear pathway between north and south this morning. As the day dawns and the sun rises, so does the D-layer absorption. By mid-day, the band will be mostly abandoned because propagation is so poor that near-vertical incidence propagation is nearly dead, thanks to absorption. But as the days grow shorter and Orion sticks around all night long, the 75 meter band will become a go-to place for getting on the air and really having a lot of fun.
Read or listen: