On Monday night me and some friends had our regular call. These last for hours as we chat about what we're discovering about radio and other stuff in our lives. Some time ago, Kipz M7KPZ (who is really into antenna theory) had ordered a NanoVNA v2. It arrived last week and, on the call, he used it to analyse some of the antennas he had lying around. It's amazing what that thing can do for just £50. To be honest I didn't understand much of what I saw on the screen, the main thing that it depicts being the Smith chart. I did, however, understand the frequency/loss plot derived from a rapid frequency scan, the frequency for the minimal VSWR, and a few other diagnostics. It's not a great time of year to get an antenna installed, so I taped my Diamond VX30N to my office window and managed to chat on GB3WR in the Mendips as well as on our regular hangout of GB3BS. There was a fair amount of background hiss which disappeared quickly once I held it outside. My APRS station 2E0RLZ-9 also seems to manage to get packets out pretty far on just 5W. Later in the week a 100m feeder cable came in the post so I now have all I need to get going with a proper outside antenna setup.
And of course, it's the festive season, with the winter solstice falling on the twenty-first this year. On Sunday night, Dan, Ⓑ and I got together for a midwinter celebration. We started off with a walk to Cam Brook via some footpaths passing through beautiful undulatory countryside. Cam Brook consists of the remains of the Somerset Coal Canal, with little basins and clear, unpolluted streams passing through woodland. We'd have stopped at The Packhorse if it wasn't getting dark, but instead we headed home, encountering a mysterious runic inscription along the way.
After the sun had set, Dan got out his telescope. Sunday was the day before not only the winter solstice but also the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This is an astronomical event which happens once every four hundred years or so when these two bright planets come together in the night sky. Cloud is forecasted for the actual Conjunction, so Dan found a suitable viewpoint, set up the telescope, and there, in the same frame, we saw Saturn and its rings at the top, and Jupiter at the bottom left. We also took a look at the moon and I was pretty struck by how sharp the view was of the surface, each crater showing up very clearly. Dan pointed out a few more features of the night sky. Hopefully we'll get to do a bit more stargazing next month. We came in to a feast of roast pork, roast vegetables, chips, and cider with Yule log after, and finished the evening off talking and laughing, over cheese and more cider. May all midwinters be as enjoyable as this.