“Working DX” -- or contacting faraway amateur radio stations -- takes a bit of work and practice. The most important part of the equation is knowing where to point your antenna, as this gives you the best chance of making that contact. This is known as a beam heading.
Ham Radio is a hobby that allows people to contact each other over long distances. To connect worldwide via ham radio, you have to use an appropriate frequency -- based on conditions -- and a specific type of antenna called a “yagi.” The yagi allows the ham radio operator’s signal to be focused in a specific direction in the hopes that the signal reaches its intended destination; this process is called "beam heading."
Before you start transmitting, you must first determine the appropriate frequency that will get your signal to its destination. Ham radio operators call this the Maximum Useable Frequency, or MUF. Operating close to this frequency gives you the best chance of the signal making it to the location by skipping the signal off the ionosphere -- a common way of communicating on the high frequency bands below 30 MHz. Several tools are available on the Internet to determine the MUF, including some in graphical format (link in Resources).
The next step is to ensure that your antenna is pointed in the right direction once the MUF is determined. This is why the yagi is important: the directional qualities of this type of antenna focus the signal in a particular direction. Online tools can help you determine where to point your antenna to. These locations are given in degrees rather than as cardinal directions -- for example, pointing your antenna north is zero degrees, south is 180 degrees and so forth.
If you’re delving into the world of beam headings, there’s a good chance you are looking to score some “DX.” If this excites you, it might be time to try for the ARRL’s DXCC award. DXCC stands for DX Century Club, and is given to radio amateurs who have confirmed contacts with other amateurs in at least 100 countries. Since beam headings are important to DXers, some services give beam headings to each DXCC entity from your particular location. This takes the guesswork out of where the antenna should be pointed (see link in Resources).
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images