Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mysterious Russian 'buzzer' (Enigma S28) radio broadcast changes

From our sister blog, Shortwave Central,( the following posted on the increase in Enigma S28 Russian Buzzer station activity:

The output of Russian number station UVB-76 has increased dramatically over the past week or so. The station, which broadcasts from near Povarovo [on 4625 kHz AM with suppressed lower sideband], is known as “The Buzzer” by its listeners because of the short, monotonous buzz tone that it normally plays 21 to 34 times per minute. It’s only deviated from that signal three times previously - briefly in 1997, 2002 and 2006.

In early August, a garbled recording of a voice speaking Russian was heard by listeners. A few days later, on 23 August at 13:35 UTC, a clearer voice read out the following message twice: “UVB-76, UVB-76 — 93 882 naimina 74 14 35 74 — 9 3 8 8 2 nikolai, anna, ivan, michail, ivan, nikolai, anna, 7, 4, 1, 4, 3, 5, 7, 4″, before returning to its normal broadcasting.

Since then, a number of other distorted voices have appeared over the normal buzzing transmission, as well as knocks and shuffles, as if someone were moving things around inside the broadcasting room. It’s believed that the transmission site has an open microphone, which occasionally picks up sounds from technicians working within the broadcast site.

Additional story at: (R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)

And from the SCAN-DC newsgroup:

UVB-76 is the callsign of a shortwave radio station that usually broadcasts on the frequency 4625 kHz (AM suppressed lower sideband). It is known among radio listeners by the nickname The Buzzer. It features a short, monotonous buzz tone, repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, for 24 hours per day. The station has been observed since around 1982. On rare occasions, the buzzer signal is interrupted and a voice transmission in Russian takes place. Only four to five such events have been noted. Despite much speculation, the actual purpose of this station remains unknown to the public, but is probably used for relaying military orders. There has been a spike in activity as of late August, 2010. More details on the spike below:

Here is the latest intercepts from the Wikipeda link above:

August 2010
There has been a spike in activity on UVB-76 in August 2010. Following messages have been detected by listeners:

On August 20, 2010 at 05:11 UTC, a garbled voice speaking Russian, was detected by amateur listeners. It made a short message with 56° 5'8.23"N little interference and then repeated itself with noticeably more static. This followed recent activity on the station tha little interference and then repeated itself with noticeably more static. This followed recent activity on the station that included more static than usual and several instances of objects being moved/dropped. All of this was detected by amateur listeners and is unconfirmed at the moment.

On August 23, 2010 at 13:35 UTC, a voice speaking in Russian was detected. The voice read out a single, short transmission several times before the line went dead, then returned to its normal broadcast. As the message was transmitted on upper side-band, reception with ordinary AM receivers was weak and distorted.
The message, repeated twice, was: UVB-76, UVB-76 — 93 882 naimina 74 14 35 74 — 9 3 8 8 2 nikolai, anna, ivan, michail, ivan, nikolai, anna, 7, 4, 1, 4, 3, 5, 7, 4[11] (recording of the August 23 2010 voice transmission)

On August 24, 2010 at approximately 04:00 UTC, a heavily distorted voice was heard by amateur listeners.

On August 24, 2010 at 13:25 UTC, another heavily distorted voice was detected by several amateur listeners.

On August 24, 2010 at 17:43 UTC, Hard to hear voices were heard over the transmission.

On August 24, 2010 at around 03:30 UTC, distorted voices in addition to fast beeps and pulses were heard.

On August 25, 2010 around 06:13 UTC, Random knocks or shuffles as if someone is in the room, changes in tone randomly.

On August 25, 2010 at 11:53 GMT the following message was detected: "August 3 5 2 7 Accretion 3 6 0 9 5 6 7 3". A recording is available here mirror Said message is a Google Translate of 3 8 5 2 7 ???????? 3 6 0 9 5 6 7 3. This is identical to the August 25, 2010 06:54 UTC message mentioned below.

On August 25, 2010 at 06:45 UTC, A grumble or garbled sound appeared out of nowhere for 389 ms.

On August 25, 2010 at 06:54 UTC, Another transmission occurred. (Recording of the fifth voice transmission) A new sequence/pattern with a chirping/crank noise occured on top of the previous buzzer. At times this new noise made the old buzzing noise barely audible.The message content was: "UVB-76. UVB-76. 38, 527. ????????. 36, 09, 55, 73.".

On August 25, 2010 at 18:07 UTC, Morse code could be heard behind the buzzer signal. It lasted until approximately 18:20 UTC. At approximately 18:08 UTC A tone was heard in the background followed by a short message.

There is a lot of very interesting additional details at the Wikipedia website above.

Also courtesy of the Spooks list and Jakon Hays, the following associated links:

Saw a post on MeFi this morning about it.

Which cites this site.

The wiki page has been updated quite a bit though the day.

And there is a live stream here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Current status of the ROS digital mode use in the US

Earlier this year there was quite a bit of buzz on the amateur radio newsgroups about a new digital mode known as ROS developed by a non-ham, José Alberto Nieto Ros.
The new mode uses spread spectrum technology at 1 or 16 Baud signalling rates, and is designed to cope with disturbances, low level signals, meteor scatter and moon bounce says José. José claims that receiving signals down to -35 dB (!) with 1 Bd signalling rate and -30 dB (!) with 16 Bd are possible.

But we have a problem here in the US. ROS is a spread spectrum mode and US hams are not allowed to use SS modes below 222 MHz by FCC regulation. Another problem is that hams in other portions of the world are using this 2.2 kHz bandwidth mode in the portion of the ham bands reserved for narrowband comms. Again not a good thing.

On March 4, 2010 the following was posted to the ARRL website:

In mid-February, European amateurs first used a new, experimental digital mode known as ROS. On February 23, 2010 -- after FCC review of the original documents provided from the developer's Web site -- the FCC made the following statements on ROS:

"Section 97.305 is the rule that specifies where different emission types are allowed to be transmitted on different bands. 'ROS' is viewed as 'spread spectrum,' and the creator of the system describes it as that. We assume that he knows what he created. [Section] 97.305 authorizes spread spectrum emission types (defined in Section 97.3) to be transmitted by FCC licensed amateur stations at places we regulate communications only on 222-225 MHz and higher frequency amateur bands. European telecommunication regulatory authorities may authorize amateur stations in Europe to use SS on the HF bands, but this is of no concern to us. The Commission does not determine if a particular mode 'truly' represents spread spectrum as it is defined in the rules. The licensee of the station transmitting the emission is responsible for determining that the operation of the station complies with the rules. This would include determining the type of emission the station is transmitting and that the frequencies being used are authorized for that type of emission."

Since that initial FCC review, several Internet sites have reported a claim -- attributed to the FCC -- that the original statements made had been reconsidered and that the FCC view was now that "ROS cannot be viewed as Spread Spectrum and it would be encompassed within Section 97.309 (RTTY and data emissions codes)."

When queried about this new statement, the FCC's Consumer Assistance Office stated that "[T]he information contained on the ROS Web site was not provided by the FCC." They then reaffirmed the original statements that originated from the FCC's Wireless Bureau, which handles Amateur Radio rules for the US.

The ARRL supports -- as one of the basic purposes of Amateur Radio -- the experimentation and advancing the technical skills of operators. The development and use of any new mode is exciting to many amateurs, and the League encourage amateurs to experiment within the parameters of the rules; however, the ARRL also reminds US licensees that according to Section 97.307, spread spectrum communications are only permissible in the US on frequencies above 222 MHz.

Of course, the debate raged on the various newsgroups about the pros and cons, but soon the conversation slowly died off, until this week. Earlier in the week the conversation cranked up in earnest again about the legally of using ROS in the US on the 30MDG newsgroup. This was due to this post by José on his ROS website:

Instead of investigating the details of the post, a flame war erupted, and is still raging strong even this morning. So now I'm now waiting for the aluminum foil hats (or hard kats with rubber ducks in the middle) to come out and aliens to land in BTown.

Yes, José's choice of a headline was poor "The FCC allows ROS to be used in the USA," since it makes it sound like the FCC has cleared and approved the mode for general hams ops in the US. But the details are in the body of the post:

”The FCC allows ROS to be used in the USA” (only for WE9XLQ)

Instead of taking a pause and looking into the callsign on the FCC website which would have been the prudent thing to do, some gents blew up the situation into a full blown flame war. Theese folks should have their keyboards disabled and given a time out in one corner of their shacks. ;-)))

Now the real truth, WE8XLQ is a newly issued FCC experimental license issued to Reindert A Smit in Alta Loma, CA, to test the ROS mode in the HF spectrum. The license is valid from 8/1/2010 to 1/31/2011.

In the "Explanation" section of the license it states:
Like to use ROS Modem digital mode in Amateur Radio Service. Questions exist about the legality of this mode on frequencies below 225 MHz.

In the "Purpose of Operation" section of the license it states:
Experiment with this mode and research capabilities of this mode under weak signal conditions and make comparisons against other digital modes such as WSJT and PSK31

Complete details are available at the link below:

So it will be interesting to see how all of this washes out. Personally other than the wideband nature of ROS being used in the narrowband section of the various bands, I don't see why the ARRL and FCC should have opposed the mode in the first place. There is a mode called Chip64/128 which is also described as spread spectrum (full details at being used in the HF spectrum. I haven't seen anything being done to ban this mode on the HF spectrum by the FCC. It has been around since 2007.

Not sure why all the fuss over ROS and not CHIP64/128 by the FCC. I look forward to seeing the test results of the ROS mode from WE9XLQ early next year.

In the meantime, here is your caveat. Using the ROS mode on HF by US hams other than Reindert A Smit, WE9XLQ, is illegal. If you use it, you may lose it (your license that is).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Perseid Meteor Shower

The annual Perseid meteor shower is underway. Earth is passing through a wide stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, and each time a fleck of comet dust hits Earth's atmosphere--flash!--there is a meteor. Forecasters say the shower will peak on Thursday, August 12th, and Friday, August 13th. You can see Perseids flitting across the sky at any time between about 10 pm on Thursday evening and sunrise on Friday morning. Observers who get away from city lights can expect to count dozens of meteors per hour, especially during the dark hours before dawn.

Time to dust off my meteor scatter software and head up to 6 meters for some ping time from EM85.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Solar Tsunami to Strike Earth

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory snapped this X-ray photo of the Sun early in the morning of Sunday, August 1st. The dark arc near the top right edge of the image is a filament of plasma blasting off the surface -- part of the coronal mass ejection. The bright region is an unassociated solar flare. NASA

From FoxNews:

Earth is bracing for a cosmic tsunami Tuesday night as tons of plasma from a massive solar flare head directly toward the planet.

The Sun's surface erupted early Sunday morning, shooting a wall of ionized atoms directly at Earth, scientists say. It is expected to create a geomagnetic storm and a spectacular light show -- and it could pose a threat to satellites in orbit, as well.

"This eruption is directed right at us and is expected to get here early in the day on Aug. 4," said Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "It's the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time."

The solar eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, was spotted by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which captures high-definition views of the sun at a variety of wavelengths. SDO was launched in February and peers deep into the layers of the sun, investigating the mysteries of its inner workings.

"We got a beautiful view of this eruption," Golub said. "And there might be more beautiful views to come if it triggers aurorae."

Views of aurorae are usually associated with Canada and Alaska, but even skywatchers in the northern U.S. mainland are being told they can look toward the north Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for rippling "curtains" of green and red light.

When a coronal mass ejection reaches Earth, solar particles stream down our planet's magnetic field lines toward the poles. In the process, the particles collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere, which then glow, creating an effect similar to miniature neon signs.

The interaction of the solar particles with our planet's magnetic field has the potential to create geomagnetic storms, or disturbances, in Earth's magnetosphere. And while aurorae are normally visible only at high latitudes, they can light up the sky even at lower latitudes during a geomagnetic storm.

Fortunately for Earth-bound observers, the atmosphere filters out nearly all of the radiation from the solar blast. The flare shouldn't pose a health hazard, Golub told

"It's because of our atmosphere," he explained, "which absorbs the radiation, as well as the magnetic field of the Earth, which deflects any magnetic particles produced."

The radiation "almost never" makes it to ground, he noted, though pilots and passengers in airplanes may experience increased radiation levels akin to getting an X-ray.

The solar particles also could affect satellites, though scientists think that possibility is remote. Orbital Sciences Corp. believe a similar blast may have knocked its Galaxy 15 satellite permanently out of action this year.

This type of solar event has both government officials and satellite manufacturers worrying.

NASA scientists warned recently that high-energy electric pulses from the sun could cripple our electrical grid for years, causing billions in damages. In fact, the House is so concerned that the Energy and Commerce committee voted unanimously to approve a bill allocating $100 million to protect the energy grid from this rare but potentially devastating occurrence.

The sun's activity usually ebbs and flows on a fairly predictable cycle. Typically, a cycle lasts about 11 years, taking roughly 5.5 years to move from a solar minimum, a period of time when there are few sunspots, to peak at the solar maximum, during which sunspot activity is amplified.

The last solar maximum occurred in 2001. The latest minimum was particularly weak and long- lasting.

The most recent solar eruption is one of the first signs that the sun is waking up -- and heading toward another maximum. contributed to this report.

Propagation Alert: Will it hit Earth?

On August 1, 2010, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observed a beautiful prominence eruption that may hit Earth and cause a geomagnetic storm. As the solar cycle progresses and the Sun becomes more active there will be many more opportunities to observe the causes of space weather. Want to see what happens? Follow the event at

And from the Spaceweather website:

On August 1st, the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more.

High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras tonight. One and possibly two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are heading toward Earth, propelled by the solar eruptions of August 1st (see below). NOAA forecasters estimate a 10% chance of major geomagnetic storms and a 45% chance of at least some geomagnetic activity when the clouds arrive on August 3rd and 4th.

And finally this report from our good friend Tomas Hood

At approximately 0855 UTC on August 1, 2010, a C3.2 magnitude soft X-ray flare erupted from NOAA Active Sunspot Region 11092 (1092).

At nearly the same time, a massive filament eruption occurred. Prior to the filament's eruption, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instruments revealed an enormous plasma filament stretching across the sun's northern hemisphere. When the solar shock wave triggered by the C3.2-class X-ray explosion plowed through this filament, it appears to have caused the filament to erupt, sending out a huge plasma cloud (a coronal mass ejection, or CME).

A shock wave can be seen emerging from the origin of the X-ray flare and sweeping across the sun's northern hemisphere into the filament field. The impact of this shock wave may well have propelled the filament into space. The movies (see links, below) seem to support the conclusion that both eruptions, occurring together, are linked, despite the approximately 400,000 kilometer distance between the flare and the filament eruption. How can this be? While we cannot always see the magnetic field lines between solar features (magnetic field lines are not visible unless there is plasma trapped along these field lines), we can assume from this event
that huge connecting field lines existed between the sunspot region and the filament in the sun's northern hemisphere.

This is an amazing event. A complex series of eruptions involving most of the visible surface of the sun has occurred, ejecting plasma toward the Earth. This coronal mass ejection (CME) rides the solar wind. Depending on the speed of the solar wind and the ejected plasma, this cloud will reach Earth's magnetosphere sometime between August 3 and August 5. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Radio communications by way of the ionosphere may become degraded soon after the CME arrives, and the degraded conditions may last for up to three days.

First view at the 304-Angstrom wavelength by SDO/AIA:

Second view at the 171-Angstrom wavelength by SDO/AIA:

Source: SDO/AIA

73 de NW7US, Tomas David Hood ( )


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Monday, August 02, 2010

Complex Eruption on the Sun

Space Weather News for August 1, 2010

GLOBAL ERUPTION: During the early hours of August 1st, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded a complex global disturbance on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Most of the sun's northern hemisphere was involved in the event, which included a long-duration C3-class solar flare, a "solar tsunami," and a massive filament eruption. As a result of these blasts, a coronal mass ejection (CME) is heading toward Earth. High-latitude geomagnetic storms and auroras are possible when the cloud arrives a few days hence.

On August 1st around 0855 UT, Earth orbiting satellites detected a C3-class solar flare. The origin of the blast was sunspot 1092. At about the same time, an enormous magnetic filament stretching across the sun's northern hemisphere erupted. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the action.

The timing of these events suggest they are connected, and a review of SDO movies strengthens that conclusion. Despite the ~400,000 km distance between them, the sunspot and filament seem to erupt together; they are probably connected by long-range magnetic fields.

In short, we have just witnessed a complex global eruption involving almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun.

A coronal mass ejection (CME) produced by the event is heading directly for Earth. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when it arrives on or about August 3rd. See forecast below.

3-day Solar-Geophysical Forecast issued Aug 01 22:00 UTC
Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is expected to be very low. However, there is a chance for an isolated C-class flare from Region 1092.

Geophysical Activity Forecast: Geomagnetic field activity is expected to be at quiet levels during most of day 1 (02 August). An increase to unsettled to active levels is expected late on day 1 due to the arrival of the full-halo CME observed on 01 August. Activity is expected to increase to unsettled to active levels with a chance for minor storm levels on day 2 (03 August) as CME effects persist. Activity is expected to decrease to quiet to unsettled levels with a chance for active levels on day 3 (04 August) as CME effects subside.