Participate in the 2023 MMMonVHF/DUBUS Meteorscatter Sprint Contest, August 12-14

If shooting stars make you swoon, you better sit down because the 2023 Perseid Meteor Shower, with one of the year’s most awe-worthy shooting star displays, is currently active. To make a good thing even better, MMMonVHF in cooperation with DUBUS and Funk-Telegramm magazines will be hosting the 16th annual MMMonVHF 144 MHz Meteorscatter Sprint Contest, where participating hams can bounce radio signals off of craggy space rocks as they scatter across the night sky.

The contest will take place from August 12, 0:400 GMT to August 14, 3:59 GMT with the predicted maximum occurring on August 13 between 07:00 GMT and 14:00 GMT.

The Perseid Meteor Shower directly results from Earth passing through a trail of debris, namely rock and ice, left by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle in 1992 when it passed close to Earth. It is the largest object known to repeatedly pass by Earth with a nucleus about 16 miles wide. The comet is not expected to reappear in our inner solar system again until 2126. The meteors that we see from Earth are pieces of the debris left by Swift-Tuttle. As the debris enters the atmosphere it burns up in a burst of light that, according to NASA, streaks across the sky at a speed of 37 miles per second.

The peak, and most anticipated part of the shower, occurs when Earth moves through the densest section of debris. While on paper it may sound like a bit of an astronomical mess, the end result is beautiful with more than 100 meteors visible to the naked eye per hour, on average. And unlike the 2022 shower whose very bright moon made fainter meteors more difficult to see, this year’s moon is expected to be far dimmer with only 10% illumination, making viewing of less flashy meteors much easier.

All that—plus amateur radio fun! Earthbound hams can watch the show while bouncing Daradio signals off of solar system rocks for an extra cool meteor shower experience. As the meteoroids (as they’re called while in space) which move at 133,200 MPH, according to NASA, hit the Earth’s atmosphere to become meteors, they leave a temporary ionized trail of debris across the sky. Signals can bounce off of these small, ionized trails in much the same way radio signals bounce off of the larger ionosphere around Earth. This is called meteor scatter propagation. Hams use it to signal between different amateur radio stations or to listen and record radio pings from passing meteors.

It’s a really cool skill that doubles as a great conversation starter. After all, not everyone knows how to ping space rocks. Plus, it’s a contest that’s open to operators of all skill levels including those with a Technician’s license. And all you need to get started is a transceiver capable of transmitting and receiving signals in the VHF and UHF frequency range and a directional antenna to help focus the signal in the intended direction.

For more information on this meteor shower and others, check out the International Meteor Organization website for a weekly meteor activity outlook, MeteorFlux 2.1 real-time viewer that graphs meteor shower activity, downright amazing videos, and tools to report your own meteor sightings or fireballs, plus so much more!

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