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How far can I communicate with amateur radio?

The range of communication in amateur radio depends on several factors, such as the frequency band, mode of operation, equipment, antenna type, atmospheric conditions, and the location of the transmitting and receiving stations. Here are some general guidelines for the communication range in various scenarios:

VHF and UHF bands (e.g., 2 meters and 70 centimeters): In these bands, communication is primarily line-of-sight, so the range is limited by the curvature of the Earth and obstacles like buildings or hills. With handheld or mobile transceivers, you can typically communicate up to 5-30 miles (8-48 km) under normal conditions. Using repeaters or specialized techniques like tropospheric ducting or meteor scatter can extend the range to 100 miles (160 km) or more.

HF bands (e.g., 20, 40, and 80 meters): These bands are more suitable for long-distance (DX) communication, as the radio waves can be refracted by the ionosphere and travel beyond the horizon. Depending on the band, time of day, and atmospheric conditions, you can potentially communicate with other amateur radio operators thousands of miles away. During periods of high solar activity, even low-power transmitters can enable worldwide communication.

Satellite communication: Some amateur radio satellites, known as OSCARs (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio), can be used to relay VHF and UHF signals over long distances. This can enable communication between operators separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles, depending on the satellite’s orbit and footprint.

Moonbounce (EME): Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) communication, or moonbounce, is a technique used by advanced amateur radio operators to bounce signals off the Moon’s surface and back to Earth. This allows for communication between operators on opposite sides of the globe, although it requires specialized equipment and precise antenna pointing.

Digital modes: Some digital modes, like FT8 or JT65, are designed for weak-signal communication and can enable long-distance contacts even with modest equipment and antennas. These modes are particularly effective in the HF bands, where they can take advantage of ionospheric propagation.

In summary, the communication range in amateur radio can vary widely depending on the frequency band, mode of operation, equipment, and atmospheric conditions. While VHF and UHF bands are generally limited to local and regional communication, HF bands, satellites, and specialized techniques like moonbounce can enable long-distance and even global contacts.

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