Getting started in Meteor Scatter (MS)

I’d like to share with you all my passion for working stations on VHF (6m, 4m and 2m) using Meteor Scatter (MS) as the propagation mode.  I wrote this during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower in 2015 as it’s much more likely that a newcomer, even with a modest VHF station, inspired by the article to try and decode MS bursts, will decode bursts during the meteor shower peak, which in turn hopefully increasing the chances of them continuing to try MS after the peak has died down in the knowledge decoding is possible. Even though the shower I wrote this for is long gone, the article is still a good guide to get you started in MS.

By a modest VHF station I really do mean a simple station like an FT-817 or SDR as the receiver and a vertical collinear as the antenna. Of course a better radio and antennas like a beam would be better but it’s much easier to get started than many think, and that’s what I want to show.  This has been proved during the writing of this article where a friend Stevie, 2M0ZFG in IO76, surrounded by 500m hills all around him (see his horizon plot below) and using an FT-817 radio + V2000 vertical collinear antenna (fed with RG-58) has been decoding MS pings on 2m (FSK441) from various EU stations and Steve, M0MVB, who has been decoding EA2ARD on 6m (JT6m) using his Kenwood TS-2000 radio and V2000 vertical collinear antenna.


Image courtesy of HeyWhatsThat

Quick Meteor Scatter (MS) Overview

Simply put, MS QSOs are made by reflecting (bouncing) your signal off the ionised trail of a meteor as it burns up when entering the atmosphere.

Image courtesy of QST

Meteor trails are unpredictable and “random”, however there are times when the number of meteor trails increase, these are early morning, and during meteor showers, it’s during these times that your chances of making a QSO using MS as a propagation mode are at their highest.  The increase in the meteor count during showers is obvious but the reason why early mornings also have an increase might not be so. It’s down to the fact that the point on the earth which has the sun rising, your location if it’s early morning, is facing forward in the direction of travel of the earth through space and so collides with more debris, but this also means that from noon till midnight the opposite is true, and it is the worst time of day for meteor reflections as your point on the planet has moved away from being at the front and is being somewhat shielded from space debris.

Image courtesy of G3WZT

Quick Start

To get started in MS you just need to do the following;

1. Download MSHV (link below)
2. As a minimum for RX configure the sound card settings (Options > Sound Settings)
3. Tune your radio to the correct frequency and mode (see the band/mode table below)
4. Click on ‘START MONITOR’ in MSHV
5. Sit back and watch (and most likely wait)

MSHV in more detail

Decoding MS pings needs a receiver capable of receiving USB along with a data interface or similar to decode the RX audio on a PC. There are now 2 software packages available to decode MS modes, which include JT6m, ISCAT & FSK441 (more on these below).  The simplest of these I find to setup and use is MSHV by LZ2HV, the other is WSJT v10.


Download and install MSHV – it’s easy to configure & LZ2HV has a guide on his website if you struggle. Remember, if all you plan on doing is listening for meteor bursts then all you need to configure are the sound card settings and RX mode, you don’t need to change the callsign, macros or PTT settings.

Configure the sound card under the ‘Options’ menu;


Screenshot 2015-08-13 22.57.44

Then click on ‘START MONITOR’ to start MSHV listening for MS bursts;

Screenshot 2015-08-13 22.57.53

Unpredictability of the Meteor

Due to the unpredictability of meteor trails a simple convention is used which maximises the chance of a station hearing you, this is any station beaming, or being located more West transmits 1st period. If beaming or being located more East, the station transmits 2nd period. The period can change in length dependent on the mode but the common MS modes of JT6m, ISCAT & FSK441 (SSB or HSCW (high speed CW) could be included here too) all have a TX/RX period of 30 seconds.  The means the 1st period is 00-29 seconds and the 2nd period is 30-59 seconds, the result is the station who is more East transmits between 00 and 29 seconds and listens from 30 to 59 seconds, while the station most West does the opposite, this is mostly useful for random CQ’ing. When using an omni-directional use the period you like but if your intention is to work stations to the east of you remember that are likely TX’ing in the 1st period so are therefore listening in the 2nd. If you have a sked (a planned tune and place for a QSO) the relative position of the station to you (more East or West of you) should determine the period, you then set the period in the software and it takes care of the rest. When using the software in RX only (called Monitor) it will decode both periods allowing you to see all the activity.

PC Timing

The timing of the PC clock is important for all this to work, otherwise you and your QSO partner will be out of and you’ll both end up transmitting at the same time for however long your clock is out.  Lets assume your PC clock is 10 seconds slow, there are 2 consequences to this, one practical and one social,

  1. It will mean for 10 seconds in every period you’ll be TX’ing when you should be RX’ing and RX’ing when you should be TX’ing, ultimately reducing your chance of completing the QSO by 33%.
  2. Also as your period is 10 seconds late in effect, you’ll end up TX’ing outside the expected period which will cause QRM to local stations who are potentially listening for DX

To solve this you need to regularly synchronise your PC clock. Regularly is not every 24 hours but every 15 minutes.  The simplest way to do this is to install a piece of software called Dimension 4 which “is the fastest and easiest way to synchronize your computer’s clock”.  Once installed it auto starts with Windows and can be launched from the ‘notification area’ (the bit by the clock).  I recommend you select an NTP server from the list for the county you are in then hit OK, this is my config below;

Screenshot 2015-08-12 00.40.52

Modes and Bands

Each mode has a benefit over others, while SSB and HSCW are still used in Meteor Showers, like the Perseids, I’m going to stick with the MUM (Machine Celebrated Modes) JT6m, ISCAT & FSK441.  Here are the main calling frequencies (centres of activity) for 6m, 4m and 2m for these MFM modes. 4m is a little variable as different countries have different allocations so you may need to check the cluster or log into a VHF chat page like ON4KST (registration needed) to see what activity is about, or make a sked to know where to have the QSO.








Mainly JT6m but sometimes ISCAT-B is used.
Note: This is in the old 6m MGM allocation, which was reallocated for SSB/CW use from 01/01/2012, so it is encouraged that the new MGM allocation between 50.300MHz & 50.400MHz, with 50.330MHz being the MGM calling frequency, is used.  However many stations still use 50.230MHz, rightly or wrongly.







Need to know the freq to monitor as there is no agreed data calling frequency from my experience




FSK441 99% used for MS on 2m, SSB and HSCW are the others

Leaving your RX running on any of these modes with MSHV in RX (monitor only) mode, it’s highly likely you will see many reflections from a number of stations.

With my Icom IC-910 + 9 element beam YU7EF EF0209 @14m AGL and Icom IC-756pro3 + 5 element Duoband @12 AGL I’ve worked 30 stations in the past few days, here is a map showing some of these QSOs,  and remember this is otherwise a closed flat bands where people say it’s not worth operating on!


Some Examples of Decodes

EI9E in IO43 on 6m JT6m using MSHV;


LW2WR and UT5DL on 2m FSK441 using MSHV, note LW2WR is RX’ing on 144.384 and UT5DL is RX’ing on 144.355;

Screenshot 2015-08-13 01.25.32

DC2ECM in JO62 on 2m FSK441 using WSJT;


Points On TX

Once you are happy with RX and want to start TX’ing  then Kevin, G0CHE, has a good description of the MS Message Procedure on his website, so I won’t reproduce it here, however some points I’d like to share are;

  1. Messages are also called Macros, and start TX1 and got up to TX7 in MSHV (TX1 to TX6 in WSJT).  You always send the next message to the one you received. So if you decode the message as shown in TX1 you would reply with TX2 and the other station after decoding your TX2 would reply with TX3
  2. Some stations will TX with a CQ call on the calling frequency (as in the table above) but RX on another frequency. They do this so they don’t ‘hog’ the calling frequency. You can identify that as the CQ message which include the RX frequency in KHz, which on 2m would look something like “ CQ M1BXF 393 393 CQ M1BXF 393 393…”, this means I’m listening on 144.393 (running split) and if I hear an answer I’ll switch split off and carry on the full QSO on 144.393
  3. If a station had lots of callers then they might not send 73’s.  RX of RRRRR (TX4) is the official requirement for a QSO to be complete.  So if I were working G3PYE and was sending “RRRR RRRR M1BXF…”, once G3PYE gets that message they can decide that instead of sending you 73 they reply to another station who had been calling them so you might decode something like “2M0ZFG G3PYE  R26 R26…”. This means G3PYE decoded your RRRRR (and the QSO is complete) and G3PYE are now answering 2M0ZFG who they also heard calling. Now it’s likely 2M0ZFG was sending G3PYE a report which G3PYE decoded so they only need to reply with R26 (Roger + report), this means a busy DX station might only ever send TX1 (CQ) and TX3 (Roger Report) or even TX3 only if they are really busy

MSHV vs. WSJT v10 (r5422)

After writing this article I thought I needed to run some  more tests between MSHV and WSJT v10.  With my IC-910 listening on 144.370 I started both WSJT and MSHV programs.  The conclusion was MSHV has more accurate decodes, and in one instance meant I could have made a QSO when WSJT would not have allowed me to, I’m going to run many more comparisons as in truth although MSHV was better in these tests, there was in reality little difference between WSJT and MSHV was slight but this test was short. I also appreciate everyones millage (audio response out of their radio) may vary giving different results.

You will most likely have to click on the images to open a larger version in a new window to read the decoded text clearly.

In the first example the decodes are very similar, however the WSJT decode has an additional ‘1’ character on the message, what it does hint at is that in some instances such additional characters could lead to confusion, this might not be the best example to show my point due to the decent length of the decode,  but assume the ping was half the length then the ‘1’ could cause confusion as to what the report could be; ‘26’ or ‘16’.


In this second example, WSJT decodes much less of the ping than MSHV did.  The first line is the Auto decode, the additional lines are my attempt to Manually decode the message by clicking on the burst.  Note that WSJT fails to decode is the QSY frequency, either Auto or Manual, where as MSHV decodes ‘365’ using either.  Both WSJT and MSHV report the burst length as being 60ms long, so the fact here is WSJT just decoded less than MSHV, ultimately meaning that if I were using WSJT alone I would not have know what frequency to call BQI back on (ok the full callsign was not decoded, 9Y6BQI is not valid).


More information

There is much more information on the web, much more than I want to include in this article.  A few sources for additional information is John, G3WZT’s website and a video from a presentation given by Lyn GW8JLY I attended at the 2013 RSGB Convention on the topic “Meteor Scatter for Beginners”.

I hope some of you give this a go, and please get in touch if you have questions.


  1. tony

    Thanks Gavin de Ei7BMB

  2. Kevin Jackson

    I note in the text that you are informing people to use JT6M on 50.230 Mhz. I would like to point out that this is within the CW & SSB General Usage part of the bandplan which should be free from MGM. MGM is now between 5.300-50.400 Mhz and has been such for 3 years. Perpetuating the wrong QRG means that it it is taking a long time for people to move, but move they should.

    73 Kevin-M0XLT

    1. m1bxf (Post author)

      Hi Kevin,

      You raise a fair point and I’ve updated the frequency table to provide better guidance about this. However as 50.230 is still very active for MGM modes, I don’t to exclude it from the list as lack of activity on 50.330MHz could put newcomers off with the belief their equipment is not good enough, but I understand you comments on this.
      I guess it’s a situation of what comes first, the activity or the QSY, much reminds me of a point in my DX segment rant! My goal here is to give someone new to MS the best possible chance of decoding someone else, in the hope it dispels the myth, in their mind at least, that VHF DX, especially MS, is too hard to make worth while.

      Thanks for the comment, and lets encourage people to move to 50.300-50.400MHz..


  3. Dave

    Thanks Gavin for the informative page. I can say having tried it for the first time last weekend it was certainly exciting, hearing the pings from stations over 1,000 km away on VHF. Using a 9e beam and 100w seemed to produce some results. We worked 10 stations that weekend
    ☺ Tu Dave M0TAZ

    [Added by Gav, M1BXF] A write-up by Dave’s of the M0TAZ activity can be found here;


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