Homebrewing, LF & VLF, News, Propagation

Natural Radio – All Around Us!



Today a good friend of mine, Justin KE8COY, posted a link referencing a broadcast piece on Natural Radio – a reference to the radio signals produced naturally by the earth. The piece notes how it was Thomas Watson, co-inventor of the telephone, who first heard the earth’s radio signals coming over a telephone test line strung up over the roofs of houses in Boston.

The piece is fascinating, and opens up yet another aspect of radio I (and Justin) find fascinating. And yes I know I am using “fascinating” repeatedly to describe this aspect of the hobby, but it truly is such to me. To think radio signals have been in the air, in space, and even under the earth since only microseconds after the Big Bang, well, it makes me feel even more connected to Creation than before.

I can relate to what Justin said in part of his post:

The first is an audio piece from a broadcast station about how “radio was
heard before it was invented”. This was interesting to me as I’ve enjoyed
listening to the various VLF receivers you can find on the web, and the
whole idea of “natural radio” was one of the things that inspired me to go
after my ticket in the first place. I’d still like to build a VLF receiver.
One among many of a very long list of possible projects. In any case this
piece isn’t that long. As a bonus composer Pauline Oliveros makes an
appearance in this recording.


I too have an interest in building a VLF receiver, as well as a radio dedicated to hearing RF from space, such as that which is produced by Jupiter. Like all radio signals, I am intrigued by the notion of radio waves passing through the air just waiting to be captured – waiting to fulfill their destiny, so to speak.

To me it is a bit like life in the ocean – there has been life teeming in the ocean depths which we are only now beginning to appreciate through technological advances. Yet the ocean life has been there since the beginning of life on this planet, so I can only assume these life forms were put here as much for the pleasure of God as for the (eventual) pleasure of mankind. Perhaps the same is true for the radio waves present and sounding since the beginning of time itself?

Well, enough philosophizing for this round, but I do encourage you to listen to this short audio broadcast – I think you will find it interesting, to say the least. Thanks again Justin for bringing it to my attention – you always find such interesting things! 73, Robert AK3Q



  • Reply Ron Schaffner 11/22/2016 at 12:49 pm

    Interesting piece, Robert. Just how long of a wire antenna would you need? It seems it would have to be rather lengthy in order to be resonant.

    Seems like there would be a lot of noise and interference in the city. Might have better results out in the country.

    At any rate, please keep us posted of any developments.


    Ron – KD8AFH

  • Reply Robert 11/22/2016 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Ron!
    For receive the antenna doesn’t have to be anywhere near resonant length – since these are simply earth sounds, we don’t have to worry about transmitting or matching the antenna. Having said that, any kind of per-selector could be useful to isolate the band. Definitely the city noises can interfere, but I have found sometimes in winter conditions get quiet enough late at night that some things might come through. I have found that with beacons and some of the experimental frequencies in the 630 meter region.
    The quieter the local conditions, of course, the better the chances of hearing things for sure.
    One of things I am going to try is a broomstick antenna just for fun – who knows?! Cheers, Robert

  • Reply Ron Schaffner 11/22/2016 at 2:30 pm

    Fine Business, Robert. Yes, of course, for receiving, it doesn’t need to be resonant. I was just thinking the longer wire, the better.

    I’m fortunate enough, that electrical noise isn’t too much of a problem for me at the apartment complex. All electrical, land lime telephone and cable wires are underground. The outdoor lights do not seems to cause any problems either. Also, I’m on a high elevation which is evident on my VHF operations.

    It would be nice if I had the funds and room to get into radio astronomy.

    Love your blog.


    Ron – KD8AFH

    • Reply Robert 11/22/2016 at 2:51 pm

      I agree – the longer wire the better – and of course it doesn’t have to be a straight line – zig-zag antennas might be a good choice for this – lots of room for antenna experimentation, I was just talking with another ham about using a fence going around the yard for 160m or even lower – always worth a try! Cheers! Robert

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