Though it is still officially winter, the equinox approaches and brings daylight to northern regions that have been difficult to traverse in recent months. With the low solar flux numbers it is too soon to expect reliable night path conditions on 20, but we will see a steady improvement over the next few months.
It is still low band season, and our best long haul DX band for night path propagation is still 40. Nighttime MUF's are on the increase, bringing improved conditions to Europe in the evening hours. The grey line is currently aligned almost due north, making contacts across polar regions easier than they would be. These paths are never easy on the low bands, but now is the time to try them.
DX signals on the low bands will remain good for another month or so, but noise levels will soon be an additional factor. At equinox time, noise levels in both hemispheres are low enough to bring out activity from both sides of the equator. This is the time for lowband work into Australia, the Pacific, South America and southern Africa.
On the high bands, little activity is expected on 10 or 15 and the best bands will be 20 & 17. Our best opportunities on 20 are still in the morning after sunrise and in the afternoon both before and after sunset. The morning brings a pipeline to Europe, Russia and the Middle East, while the dusk opening is the best time for Asia. There will be times when the polar paths won't open very well at sunset, but it is a good idea to check the southern path for Antarctic openings and possible long path to the Orient. African contacts can be made on 20 at anytime in the Afternoon, while the Pacific is usually the last path to close in the evening. Antarctica can also come through late in the evening.
Over the coming months, look for expanded 20 Meter opportunities after dark. The polar paths will be opening up better, nighttime MUF's will continue to rise, and DX activity will move to this band as the noise levels increase on 40. Daypath conditions will improve, but after a peak of a couple hours to Europe in the morning conditions are marginal for the rest of the day. The daypath to Europe will often be more optimum on 17.
The 30 Meter band is another one that mostly closes up at night in the winter. This will be the first band to open up for long haul evening DXing this spring. Polar paths are not difficult on this band when it is open, and islands in the Indian Ocean are very accessible.