(TNS) — Specialized technology and code names may sound like elements of a spy movie; but they are also tools used by members of amateur radio clubs. “We’re the most anonymous organization you’re going to find,” said McPherson Amateur Radio Club member Richard Johnson. “Most people have no idea what we do or how we do it.” The Newton Amateur Radio Club and the McPherson Amateur Radio Club support numerous events by providing communications services and serving as weather spotters. “We are basically two clubs operating jointly,” said Russell Groves, president of the McPherson Amateur Radio Club. “They’re separate entities with separate charters, but we do just about everything together.” The majority of the events their members, who are also known as hams, work are marathons or bike rides that can cover more than 50 miles of roads or trails. As participants pass by stations, the radio operators note if anyone is experiencing health problems, is being chased by a dog, has an emergency call coming in or needs to drop out and arrange transportation from the middle of the course. “We try to be very efficient in the information we’re passing. It isn’t a lot of chit-chat, it’s just information as needed to be conveyed to the right people,” Groves said. “We keep track of the riders and the runners so we know where everybody is on the course. If someone doesn’t make it from one stop to another, we’re keeping track of that, too.” The system also ensures riders or runners who get lost are found and that the event does not end until everyone is accounted for.
WASILLA — The Matanuska Amateur Radio Association is a general interest amateur radio club with approximately 100 members. You may not see them, but if you have a scanner, chances are you’ve heard them. According to MARA secretary Tabitha Sherman, the group is comprised of folks from every walk of life with at least one thing in common, the love of amateur, or ham radio. Group officers said MARA members are involved in every aspect of amateur radio. The organization makes a special effort to participate in providing communications support for public service events, field days, marathons, sled dog and snow machine races — local and statewide, avalanche rescues, and wildland fires.
The Sun has changed its figure, researchers say, and might keep it that way. The structure of the Sun’s surface, where sunspots live, appears to have changed markedly 23 years ago. That’s when solar magnetic activity might have started slowing down, Rachel Howe (University of Birmingham, UK, and Aarhaus University, Denmark) and collaborators speculate in paper to appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (full text here). Such a structural change might help explain the Sun’s mysteriously weak cycles in recent years.