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Hi Everyone,

I hope you made it through Thanksgiving and Black Friday unscathed or only slightly bruised. December will be a busy month for ALERT, as we look forward to Skywarn Recognition Day and the ALERT Christmas Party.

Skywarn Recognition Day was developed in 1999 by the National Weather Service and the ARRL to honor the contributions that Skywarn volunteers make to the NWS mission – the protection of life and property during threatening weather.

During the Skywarn Special Event, hams will operate from ham equipped NWS offices. The object of the event is for all participating Amateur Radio stations to exchange contact information with as many NWS stations as possible on 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, and 2 meters plus 70 centimeters. Contacts via repeaters are permitted.

Starting at 6PM Friday December 1, the ALERT Team will activate K4NWS as part of this special event. Nationally the event runs for 24 hours. As in the past, the length of operations at K4NWS will be at the discretion of our responding operators. Usually they run it for 12 to 18 hours.

Bill Rodgers, K4FSO is coordinating the ALERT response and volunteers are welcome, including “drop in” operators.

We are anticipating having 11 to 15 or so operators participating. This number includes you!

For more information go to:

The ALERT Christmas Party will occur Tuesday December 12th during the regular meeting time.
Preceding the meeting there will be a Board of Directors meeting at 6:30.


On The Lighter Side Of Things

A ham, whose name shall remain secret, called the FCC to tell them he had moved and wanted to change his address on the FCC records from Texas to Vermont.

The man at the FCC who took his call asked where Vermont was.

As my Ham friend tried to explain, he interrupted and said,

“Look, I’m not stupid or anything, just tell me what state is it in?”


Two elderly hams had been friends for many decades.

Over the years they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures on the ham bands.
Lately, their activities have been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards.
One day they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said, “Now don’t get mad at me…..I know we’ve been friends for a long time…..but I just can’t think of your name and your call.! I’ve thought and thought, but I can’t remember them.

Please tell me what they are.”

His friend glared at him. For at least three minutes he just stared and glared at the gray haired old man..

Finally he said, “How soon do you need to know?



Ham 1 — Hey I hear Old Megawatt is retiring from Ham Radio
Ham 2 — Yeah I heard him say that before
Ham 1 — I know, but this time the FCC said it!

Q: What’s the hardest part about dating a HAM radio operator?

A: They tend to send mixed signals.

“I know lots of jokes about capacitors, but I’d have to charge for them.
Plus, there’s a high level of resistance to this type of joke, as they are not current.

These puns are so bad it hertz.


Mark’s Almanac

December was the tenth Roman Month, from whence it gets its name. Among many Native American tribes it was called “the moon of clacking rocks”, as it was the time when they prepared and manufactured stone tools, implements and weapons, since the growing season being over, and bad weather prevented them from hunting.

December is the cloudiest month of the year, with only 40 to 60% of possible sunshine poking through the clouds. It is also the stormiest month of the year for the Continental US & the Gulf of Mexico. By “stormy” meaning large-scale storms, not necessarily the tornadic storms that they bring, even though we are still in our Second Tornado Season.

A region of heavy rainfall usually forms from Texas to Northwest Florida to Tennessee and Arkansas. Cold waves bringing rain, snow, ice and occasionally tornadoes, sweep across the region.

December can be cloudy and cold, and, then it can swing into spring like warmth, luring plants to bloom early, only to have the frosts and freezes return and the plants are “nipped in the bud”.

Hurricane season is now “officially” over, however Mother Nature sometimes throws a surprise in to make life interesting.

From 1851 – 2015 there have been 17 Tropical Storms and from 1822 to 2015 there have been 8 Category 1 hurricanes, but, none have ever struck the United States.

Two notable December hurricanes are:

Hurricane Alice of 1954, which is the only known Atlantic hurricane to span two calendar years and one of only two named Atlantic tropical cyclones, along with Tropical Storm Zeta of 2005, to do so.

Alice developed on December 30, 1954 from a trough of low pressure in the central Atlantic Ocean in an area of unusually favorable conditions. The storm moved southwestward and gradually strengthened to reach hurricane status. After passing through the Leeward Islands on January 2, 1955, Alice reached peak winds of 90 mph before encountering cold air and turning to the southeast. It dissipated on January 6 over the southeastern Caribbean Sea.

The last December hurricane to occur was Hurricane Epsilon during the 2005 season, the year in which we ran out of hurricane names. The year also featured Tropical Storm Zeta, the latest forming Tropical Storm which formed on December 30, 2005 and lasted until January 7, 2006.

Looking towards the sky, Mercury, magnitude –0.4, is very low in the southwest in the sunset afterglow. Scan for him with binoculars in the southwest no more than 20 or 30 minutes after sunset.

Venus, magnitude -3.9, rises before and dawn in the east-southeast.

Mars, magnitude +1.7, rises before and dawn in the east-southeast.

Jupiter, magnitude – 1.7, rises before and dawn in the east-southeast.

First up is Mars, the dimmest, accompanied by the star Spica. Then Jupiter rises well to their lower left a little before dawn begins.

Venus is getting extremely low and tough to spot as dawn grows bright. Look for her to rise far lower left of Jupiter. Their separation widens as Venus is sinking away.

Saturn, magnitude +0.5, is very low in the southwest in the afterglow of sunset. As with his neighbor Mercury, scan for him with binoculars in the southwest no more than 20 or 30 minutes after sunset. In the coming days Saturn will move down a little closer to Mercury, passing to his upper right.

Uranus, magnitude 5.7 in Pisces is high in the southeast in the early evenings.

Neptune, magnitude 7.9 in Aquarius is high in the south in the early evenings.

3558 planets beyond our solar system have now been confirmed as of November 17, per NASA’s Exoplanet Archive

Full Moon occurs at 15:47 UTC or 9:47 AM CST on December 3. This will also be a “Supermoon”, the moon being at its closest approach to Earth, and may appear slightly larger and brighter than usual. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Moon Before Yule and the Full Long Nights Moon.

The Geminid Meteor Shower, peaks on December 13-14. Geminids are one of the year’s best meteor showers. It is my favorite meteor shower. It’s a consistent and prolific shower, and usually the most satisfying of all the annual showers, even surpassing the more widely recognized Perseids of August. This shower typically produces 50 or more multicolored meteors an hour, or about one every minute.

As a general rule, the dazzling Geminid meteor shower starts around mid-evening and tends to pick up steam as evening deepens into late night. No matter where you live worldwide, the greatest number of meteors usually fall in the wee hours after midnight, or for a few hours centered around 2 a.m. local time. If you’re game, you can watch the Geminid shower all the way from mid-evening until dawn.

The waning crescent moon will be no match for the Geminids this year. The skies should still be dark enough for an excellent show.

The Geminids is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th.

Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

New Moon occurs December 18 at 06:30 UTC or 12:30 AM CST when the Moon will on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

One target you could try for is galaxy Messier 31 otherwise known as M31 the Andromeda Galaxy.

In the evening, M31 is visible in the south and can be found by locating the Great Square of Pegasus. This is one of the easier star groupings as it is exactly what it says – a very large four star square with two “tails” coming off one corner.

Starting at the star where the “tail” attaches to the square, which is Alpha Andromedae, or Alpheratz, move up the left “tail” two stars to the star Mirach. Then turn 90 degrees to the right, and move the equivalent of half the distance from Alpheratz to Mirach.

You should easily spot M31, which as with most deep sky objects, will look nothing like the observatory photographs, but rather as a faint rice shaped object with binoculars and possibly it’s brightest satellite galaxies M32 & NCG110. If there is a dark sky, unpolluted sky, you can even see it with your unaided eye.

The photons that will be striking your retina left Andromeda over two million years ago.

Andromeda shares a special place in history and our understanding of the universe. One hundred years ago, galaxies, as we understand them did not exist. There was one galaxy, the Milky Way, and it was the known universe. Other spiral shaped objects, such as M31 and M33, the Pinwheel Nebula were thought to be part of the Milky Way and as one antique book I saw theorized, were solar systems in the process of being formed.

This began to change in 1917 when based on the dimness of a nova observed in Andromeda, as compared to other Milky Way novae, the theory was proposed that Andromeda was actually located outside of the Milky Way. Being an “island universe” as it was called. This sparked major debates until Edwin Hubble, whom the space telescope is named for, determined the true distance of the Andromeda Galaxy.

Andromeda, the Milky Way and The Pinwheel Galaxy are the prime galaxies in a galaxy cluster that has been given the awe inspiring name of “The Local Group” of galaxies, of which there are over 54 members. As knowledge increased it was found that the Local Group is in turn one of over 100 galaxy clusters that make up the Virgo Supercluster of galaxies. The Virgo Supercluster in turn is just one 10 million galaxy superclusters, and is in turn part of even a larger Laniakea Supercluster, which has the Hercules, Shapley, Coma and Perseus-Pisces Superclusters as neighbors, which in turn may be part of even a larger structure not yet identified.

These superclusters of superclusters stretch across the cosmos in streams like wisps of smoke, with vast voids in between, giving the Universe a structure like a tangled spider’s web, or bath bubbles, with the bubbles surface being made up of countless galaxies.

Andromeda and the Milky Way are a binary system orbiting around a common barycenter, or center of gravity or mass in between. Andromeda is also moving towards the Milky Way at 68 miles per second and in 4.6 billion years will collide with the Milky Way, their combined tidal forces destroying Andromeda’s spiral shape and the Milky Way’s barred spiral shape and combining to form a giant elliptical or disk shaped galaxy.

Studies also suggest that M33, the Pinwheel Galaxy — the third-largest and third-brightest galaxy of the Local Group — will participate in the collision event too. Its most likely fate is to end up orbiting the merged stars and nebulae of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies and finally to merge with it in an even more distant future.

However, a collision with the Milky Way, before it collides with the Andromeda Galaxy or an ejection from the Local Group due to gravitational quirks cannot be ruled out.

Such collisions are relatively common, considering galaxies’ long lifespans. Andromeda, for example, is believed to have collided with at least one other galaxy in the past, and several dwarf galaxies such as the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way are currently colliding with the Milky Way and being merged into it.

In such collisions interacting gravitational fields effect paths and orbits, generally the stars don’t actually collide, due to the wide distances between stars. They just pass through each other’s neighborhood. For example, the Sun probably was part of an open star cluster that is now drifted apart; it is now a rogue star currently passing through the fringe of the remnants of another open star cluster Collinder 285 or the Ursa Major Moving Group or Association, of which the majority of the stars of Ursa Major are a part. But, the distances are so great; there are no interactions between the occupants and the “visitor”.

Be that as it may, I don’t plan on hanging around for the Andromeda collision. By the time it starts, call me Felicia, but, I’m out of here.

Winter Solstice will be December 21 at 16:28 UTC or 10:28 AM CST. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Ursid meteor shower, a minor meteor shower, which runs annually from December 17-25 will peak on the night and morning of December 21 – 22 producing about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790.

The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for optimal observing. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, The Little Dipper, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Looking towards the sky, the stars of Winter have begun drifting into the night sky. Low in the southern sky is the bright star Fomalhaut.

Whenever Fomalhaut is “southing” (crossing the meridian due south, which it does around 7 p.m. now depending on your location), the first stars of Orion are just about to rise in the east, and the Pointers of the Big Dipper stand vertical straight below Polaris, towards The North Star.

Orion is also valuable as a rough navigation aid as the two left stars forming the elongated square forming Orion always lie on a general north / south line, and the bottom two stars of the square lie on a rough east / west line. Also, the lead star or right star in Orion’s belt, always ALWAYS rises due east and sets due west, no matter where you are on earth.



Christmas is my favorite time of the year.

Christmastime is a time of wonder & mystery. A time of bright lights, shining trees and the time of hide and seek, as presents are hid from inquiring minds and fingers.

A time one’s mind and memories drift back to days of childhood, and Christmases now long gone by. Remembering friends and family, some here, some now gone & longing that they were near once again, as it was once upon a time not so long ago. And, it is a time when, if we allow ourselves and don’t choose to “Grinch out” and be sour pusses, we can become kids once again.

Most importantly though, it’s a time to remember that the true “reason for the season” occurred in a manger, long ago on that first cold and chilly “Silent Night.”

So as you go about your Christmas preparations remember the magic that was there when you were a child & don’t let that magic die. Make it magic once again

For Christmas truly is “the most wonderful time of the year”.


Remember that this is YOUR newsletter. Articles for this newsletter are welcome and needed. Please consider sending an article, preferably amateur radio, meteorological or EMCOMM related.


This month’s meeting will feature the ALERT Christmas Party on December 12 at 1PM at the National Weather Service Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.

Hope to see you there!
Mark / WD4NYL
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