The Flux is 65!

    We were sitting in the shack musing about the Great Days of DXing the other afternoon. The temperature outside was in the mid 90's and we were glad we had made the leap and acquired an air conditioner. It was a comfortable 70 degrees in the shack and we recalled how we had sat up half the night waiting for the VP8SSI boys on 14.195 just a few years ago. And how great it had been to work Peter 1st just a year or so later. Those were the Golden Days of DXing. Absolutely. And no one could argue with that.

    We glanced out the window and saw one of the Local QRPers making his way up the hill. This was the same QRPer that had been by a lot recently . . . the lean hungry looking QRPer who thought too much. Had it not been so hot outside, we would have quietly slipped out the back door. However, the air conditioner was doing it's job just a bit too well so we decided to weather the storm. The QRPer came in and sat down, looked at us for a minute or two, then said, "Sure is nice and cool in here."

    We nodded in agreement, but we were pretty sure the QRPer wasn't here to get cooled off. And we weren't far off the mark, either! "Do you know what the solar flux is?", he asked, "Do you know that it's been 65 for the last two days?" We had to admit that we didn't know the exact numbers. "Well, it probably is.", we replied, "Sunspot Louie has been reporting numbers between 68 and 75 or thereabouts for the past few months. This is the bottom of the cycle", we continued on, "and us DXers have to be patient. Louie says things are about to turn around and it's common knowledge the Palos Verdes Sundancers are hard at work. You shouldn't be too concerned."

    The QRPer looked at us for a moment, then he replied, "Well, I wasn't at first, but I decided to do a bit of research. You see, it's not possible to have a solar flux of 65. I've been checking the libraries and reading all the research papers coming out of NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. Do you know what the solar flux is? Did you know that it's measured by the amount of 10.7 centimetre radiation that reaches ground level. And did you know that the solar flux is reported in solar flux units, and that one solar flux unit is equivalent to 10 raised to the minus 22nd watts squared per Hertz? Did you know that?"

    Son of a Gun! We just stared at the QRPer for a few moments. Since we hadn't a clue where he was leading us, or what he was talking about, we simply nodded. "Well", he continued, "since it's the solar flux that causes the ionization at F2 layer heights that is critical for long haul HF DX transmissions, this is not good news. Not at all. Now, the problem is, sunspots are areas of enhanced radiation emissions. With no sunspots, with none at all, the background radiation from the sun will produce a solar flux of 67 solar flux units. Follow?"

    The QRPer had caught us off guard, for we'd drifted off thinking about how we'd caught the AH1A crew on 160-metres at greyline. We snapped back to attention and did a quick recovery. "Of course.", we replied, hoping there wasn't a test at the end of all this!

    The QRPer ploughed on. "We presently have a sunspot count of zero . . . in other words, no sunspots. None. So, it follows that the solar flux should be 67, not 65. This leads me to conclude that there has been a fundamental change in the thermodynamics of the sun. We are on the verge of another Maunder Minimum. There's no doubt about it. Now, what are we going to do?"

    We were stumbling for something to say, when the Old Timer came in and sat down. "Nice and cool in here", he said, "What's new?"

    There are times when the unknowing can ask the right question at the right time! And this surely was one of them. We sat back and listened to the QRPer repeat the entire story to the Old Timer, ending with the same question: "What are we going to do?"

    It wasn't long before the Old Timer began his answer. "That's 65 solar flux units, right?", he began and the QRPer nodded in agreement. "Well if we assume that during an entire solar cycle the flux varies from the mid sixties to over 200, it's safe to say that we have a variation in flux of at least 150, and during very active cycles, even more so. And while the solar cycle generally follows a sinusoidal pattern, it's safe to say one has to run the data through a high pass or median filtering algorithm to remove the high frequency components, right?" The QRPer shook his head in agreement. "Or more properly, although a bit more complicated, a Fourier transform would probably do a better job of identifying the noise and separating it from the true signal. And, mathematically speaking, one has to have at least seven readings before any statistically significant conclusions on a data set can be drawn, right?"

    This time the QRPer was a little slower indicating his agreement. We noted the look of conviction he had earlier was slowly being replaced by growing confusion. "The way I see it", the Old Timer continued, "is that you should run your data through some processing software that applies the filters and transformations I just described. Then, take your smoothed data and calculate the standard deviation, discard the datum that fall outside the 95% confidence limit and do a time series plot of the processed data set."

    We had absolutely no idea what was going on here and we had slowly inched our chair back so we were a bit further out of sight. We didn't want to be asked any opinions on any of this! The QRPer got up slowly, looked around a bit, and said, "I guess I better get started on that.", he said slowly and made his way out the door and slowly down the hill. Somehow we had the feeling his heart wasn't really into watching the solar flux anymore! We turned to the Old Timer and asked "What were you talking about?"

    "No idea.", the Old Timer replied. "My grandson studies oceanography in college. He's always talking like that! Beats the heck out of me what it means, but he seems to like it. I memorized that part the last time he was over. Never know when it might come in handy."

    Our head was starting to ache a bit from all this. "You see", the Old Timer said, "all that translates into two words . . . and they are: 'Who cares?'" All of a sudden we understood! "Yes, who cares if the flux is 65! Come hell or high water, the flux will be 100 next year. There will be DX for all, although for some more so. "Exactly", the Old Timer said, "and while it is a well known fact that QRPers who are lean and think too much can be dangerous, they are still QRPers! The Golden Days of DXing are near. There will be DX for the Deserving! Be a Believer . . . even when the flux has been 65 for two days straight!"

    Son of a Gun! The Old Timer was right. For sure. As Albert had so often said, "All things are relative, some more so." Who could argue with the fundamental laws of nature?


This story is in the public domain and may be reproduced in any format. - VE1DX

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Last updated on Thursday, 12 April 2007