We all ask ourselves that question now and then when we turn on our radios. I took this snapshot of 40 meters early Sunday evening, May 8th, at 6:30 PM local time or 0130 UTC. You can see lots of activity within the US, and between primarily the US and Europe, as well as Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. Even if you are not a big DX’er, or even a General class ham, this should be interesting to you.
Looking in the upper left portion of the web page (you can click on the map to go to the real website), you’ll find your navigation buttons to click. Select HF or VHF+ bands, then select an individual band. You can also add in the sun’s greyline, to help illustrate the interesting effects the sun has on many of our bands. Looking at certain times of the day, you can also start to see how busy 40 meters can be in the early evening, and how it often dies out late at night local time. 80 and 160 meters will appear to be dead during our local daytime, but look at how busy they get when the sun goes down! When you look at 160, you’ll also have to remember that it’s pretty lightly-populated compared to 80, because of the large antenna sizes it needs (think 260 feet long for a dipole, or a 130 tall vertical monopole!).
Another thing to use this map for is to look for openings in 10 and 12 meters, as well as 6 meters. We are entering the spring and summer months when, even during sunspot minimums, we get openings on 6 meters, with more activity on 10 and 12. If you are a Tech class ham, 10 and 6 meters should be very interesting to you, because you have operating privileges there. I was surprised to see hams recording QSO’s on 6 meters today, even after dark in their local areas! 6 meters is the magic band–it opens suddenly and acts like a regular HF band, giving world-wide contacts, then shuts suddenly, often to open again between two areas. One day a few years back, somebody on the N6NFI repeater (145.23 MHz in Palo Alto–a busy repeater) called out that 6 meters was open to the Midwest. I was in my Camry at the time (RIP–died in a rear-ender in 2014 on HWY 85). It was my HF through UHF mobile ham station at the time. I dialed up 6 meters on my FT-857, pushed the rocker switch on the dash to shorten my Lil’ Tarheel HP screwdriver antenna to 50.125 MHz, and listened to a bunch of signals coming in like 20 meters during a contest! I only had about 10 minutes until I got to work, but I easily contacted three stations in a row in New Mexico. All were 59+, very strong. And then, after about 30 minutes, the band was quiet again! Lots of fun, though. It’s a bit like a fisherman calling out to his friends that the fish were biting like crazy! We all dipped our hooks in, and started pulling out big, fat ones. Then the school swam away, but we felt victorious for having been there!
Those of you that are new might wonder about all those squares (rectangles, actually). They are called, oddly enough, grid squares. They are 1 degree latitude by 2 degrees longitude in size, and help hams working VHF or satellites to get a rough idea of where someone they are talking to is located. You might hear this on 6 meters during an opening, or on almost any satellite QSO. If you live near me, you are in CM97. In Hollister, you are CM96. If you aren’t sure, check your callsign on QRZ.com and see that it has already been assigned to you, based on the address you gave when you first got your license.
Have fun with DXMaps,com, even if you are not active on HF–yet!