By Dr. Ron Milliman, K8HSY
The “Mystery” Band
The 6 meter band (50-54 MHz) is often referred to as the “mystery band” or the “magic band” by many hams. It is almost always available for short distances, like line of sight, but it occasionally opens up for some exciting DX opportunities too. You just never know when those exciting DX openings are going to happen. When it does open up, it might only last for a few minutes and then, suddenly go dead, available once again to only line of sight contacts or somewhat longer contacts with the help of a repeater, much like two meters.
6 meter propagation is substantially controlled by sun spot and atmospheric conditions. For instance, on 6 meters when the solar flux index numbers rise to between 150 and 200, the F-layer skip can provide, literally, worldwide QSO opportunities. 6 can get really exciting when openings arise from sporadic-E, aurora, meteor-scatter, transequatorial and even moonbounce can be used for some fun communications.
Of these propagation events, sporadic-E is most often used for 6 meter long distance communications. Sporadic-E openings usually hit maximum during the solstices in the months of June and December. When these openings occur, such propagation often provides QSOs over distances of from a few hundred miles to possibly even a few thousand miles or more with what we call a "double-hop." These openings occur every year, no matter what the sun spot index is. Though this propagation opening can happen at any time, normally, the E-skip is most prevalent from May to July, with another heightened opportunity during December and the first half of January. Again, such openings can last for a few minutes up to a few hours. It is lots of fun and excitement while it lasts, and you can work the skip quite successfully with very little power and with even a very modest antenna array.
Equipment You Need
It is especially easy to get on 6 meters these days because many of our modern transceivers are designed to cover 160 through 6 meters. If you want to get the best results working DX, however, you will need a transceiver that provides more modes than just FM. You need a rig that will allow you to work SSB and even CW if you enjoy operating CW. Ten watts is sufficient when 6 is really open.