GEMINID M/S peak - operating summary
The GEMINIDS, one of the more vigorous showers of the year, was forecast to peak this morning at 1230Z. I always try to be on during the peak of a big shower, since you don't really know what might happen.
Meteor activity started at the 0100Z shower radiant rise and seemed to grow steadily. Sometimes it's hard to really measure the quality of a shower, because operating activity can vary widely by time, day of the week, where you are and what direction the meteor stream is moving. Geminids radio activity is mostly north/south, with the meteor stream moving roughly east to west, so the number of potential contacts is lesser then a shower which favors east/west paths. Meteor burst strength and duration seemed strong on 6M but few 2M attempts were made. Activity started dropping off around 0300Z as operators left the air for the evening and I decided to do likewise to make it easier to be awake and ready for the peak. At 0300Z it was looking like the 2018 Geminids might be worthwhile, which is not at common these days.
I was up at 1100Z (4AM !) and at the radios by 1130Z with large coffee in hand. Activity was good on 6M for the early hour and meteor burst strength was stout and duration very long. Some bursts on 2M were exceptional (5-10 second duration). This went on through the 1230Z forecast peak but it was hard to really notice when or if there was a peak. I would say peak activity was anytime between 1100 & 1400Z.
I only tried one really long-haul contact, a 1325 mile attempt with a well equipped station in Alabama on 2M - WA4CQG. Unfortunately, we did not complete as AL is my final "in-range" state on 2M - in other words, workable on terrestrial modes within the normal accepted maximum range of 1350-1400 miles (both NC and FL are close, but just over this distance). Several 2M QSO's were easily completed between 900-1100 miles on the shower radiant to the NNE and I worked 5 new 2M grids, EN19, EN29, EN00, EM11 & EM21. Between 6 & 2M, I worked approx 35 QSO's. I try to concentrate on 2M during showers, but I downloaded my 'stations heard' map from PSK Reporter, showing both 6 & 2 decodes and attached it to this message. There were several stations copied out beyond 1200 miles on 6M. The Geminids are not known as a good DX shower, since they just have "average" velocity. The upcoming January QUADRANTIDS is a high velocity shower, where the earth pretty much head-ons the stream and is well known for producing 1300+ miles contacts.
The Geminids are not done - there will be plenty of activity tonight and even more early tomorrow and Sunday morning if you want to check it out. For those who don't know, pretty much 100% of M/S activity is via the MSK144 mode of WSJT-X now. The old days of high-speed CW or real-quick-talking SSB are long gone, although they were fun. Be sure you have the latest version of WSJT-X (V2.0) - the encoding has been changed for this release to make MSK144 and FT8 more contest-friendly and V2.0 is NOT back-compatible with earlier versions when using these modes. This does not seem to be a problem on VHF, but HF op's are having fits over it :)
Don't neglect 222 MHz - many long haul contacts are made during showers on this band.
Good Luck - get on the rocks !
Keith J Morehouse
Calmesa Partners G.P.