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What is HAM radio ? To listen to the Amateur Radio News line and hear about the latest happenings in ham radio click here to go to my media room in the library. You will find the player on the lower left of the page.

    I have known about amateur radio and other modes of radio transmission for a long time. When I was about ten I bought a six band radio from Radio Shack. It could receive AM, FM, UHF, VHF(hi & low) and Air frequencies.

    Many years have passed and I had all but forgot about that first radio and its wonders. Until, I bought a pair of small Uniden 20 channel transceivers for me and my sweetie to use around the house. One evening as I was letting mine scan through it's channel bank I heard a radio signal from one of the local hospitals. It seems that hospital security was using the same radio frequencies as we were. I was hooked.

    I bought a real scanner shortly thereafter about three years ago. A radio shack Pro-97, triple trunking, 1000 channel, preprogrammed programmable scanner (insert Tim Allen grunts here). If a signal is broadcast or transmitted this thing can hear it. One pre-programmed scanning bank is amateur radio frequencies, all of them. "What does this have to do with amateur astronomy?" you might ask. Well, I'm getting to that part now.

    On a Thursday night I happened to be monitoring the amateur bands and heard a kind of radio show. Ham operators were checking in with "traffic" for the "net". There were featured segments, reports and trivia questions. All of this was for and about amateur astronomy!

    I heard somebody mention "e-mail check-ins" and decided to e-mail saying that I was listening on a scanner. I became known as "Scanner Eric" as is their way. After about a year of e-mail check-ins I kept getting encouraged to get my "Ticket" (ham radio jargon for an amateur radio license from the FCC). So that is what I did and within a year of doing so they have given me the chance to be a "net control operator". That is the person who moderates and logs the "show". I guess I did OK because they have included me in the net controller rotation schedule. You will hear me at the mike with the repeater in net mode once every five weeks now. I have joined their informal ranks as well as a formal radio club. That other club is a recognized Skywarn network. I Took an advanced weather spotter training course at Wheaton Community College for the purposes of learning how to properly provide severe weather information to the National Weather Service as a trained weather spotter when spotter activation is requested during times of severe weather.

    Weather and astronomy tend to go hand in hand but I would never have guessed a link between ham radio and astronomy. The truth, however, is that since the days of Sky lab and until now with the International Space Station, N.A.S.A. has promoted and encouraged amateur radio in their orbital platforms. Astronauts routinely answer questions from school classrooms equipped with a ham radio from their own radio in space.