May is an especially good month for DX. My DXing career began in the mid-60's at a sunspot bottom, and it was then that I learned about the high nighttime MUF's that characterize conditions in late spring. The fine night path propagation we find on 20 for most of the year does not exist at the low end of the cycle. In late spring we get a break from the DX doldrums, and 20 opens in the evening over the difficult polar paths we now take for granted. At the peak of the cycle these same seasonal effects turn 15 into an excellent night path band - without diminishing the its effectiveness across day paths. The variety of DX paths that open at this time of year is astonishing. There is a major event at the end of May that enables contesters to exploit 15 Meters at the peak of its season: the WPX CW.
Polar openings can occur at any hour of the day, and these openings are deep into Asia. European openings occur most of the day, with great evening openings where you can follow the sunrise across Europe (as with any nighttime band.) Morning long path should be watched for rare African countries. Good openings to the Middle East can occur in late afternoon and evening.
The 10 meter season is basically over, and DXers not in tune with propagation's seasonal cycle are somehow surprised. Some point to the drop in sunspot activity in past months. Propagationists who primarily watch the solar flux charts are expecting a rapid drop in solar activity over the coming year, and they are probably right. We have enjoyed a broad cycle peak, but it is nearly over. Make the best of 10 Meters this fall. The poor conditions in the next several months will be seasonal.
20 is great in the morning, with pipeline conditions to the Far East and long path to the Indian Ocean and Africa. Have I said this before? Please understand that I have been writing this propagation article for over four years, and am running out of material. Future articles in NARS NEWS may occasionally be devoted to other subjects, such as antennas. It is hoped that readers find these upcoming articles as informative as this series on propagation.