Introduction to VLF radio emissions

There are two types of VLF emissions; natural and artificial. The earth, out of all the planets in the solar system happens to be a great source of both. Thunderstorms are a major contributor to earth's natural resources and they happen to be the starting place of natural VLF radio emissions. Artificial emissions come from man-made things; radio communication transmissions, generating stations, power distribution networks, high power devices running on AC power.

Listening to VLF radio emissions

Unless you live in a remote wilderness area, natural VLF radio emissions are not heard without some effort and a lot of patients. The avid hobbyist must get out and away from the city. Every town, big or small has an electrical distribution system called the AC power grid. The AC power grid is a menace to VLF radio enthusiasts. The constant drone of the 60 cycle oscillation can drive the average person / listener insane! A tolerable site would be found at least one mile from the nearest power line or source. The ideal site would be tens of miles away from the nearest man-made electrical AC (alternating current) power source or transmission line. Keep in mind that underground power lines are just as intimidating as above ground lines - maybe even more because they are unseen.

Lightning is dangerous!

NEVER under any circumstances set up a VLF station in a thunderstorm! One small fraction of a second is the time it takes for lightning to travel 15 miles through the air to YOUR VLF antenna, down the wire connections, and striking whatever conducts electricity. Humans (that means YOU!) are very conductive because of the water and salt content in the body. A single strike discharges more than a BILLION watts of electrical energy in a split second - nobody in their right mind would want to be near such an awesome and unyielding event.

If a storm happens to sneak up on your location without warning, the best thing to do is drop everything and seek shelter. A safe place would be inside a vehicle. If the entire VLF receiver station can be disassembled in less then 30 seconds then it might be ok to break it down and bring it in. The serious VLF listener would have a very hard time packing up the station in under 30 seconds. A plan of action wouldn't be a bad idea for the unexpected catastrophic event. It might be a good idea to think about remote VLF listening for high lightning incidence areas, such as in the state of Florida and other places in the world. Listen to your national weather service bulletins the day before going out into the field.

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