Odd time tick frequencies, June 17, 2014, 2337 to 0101 UTC

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Token

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Odd Time tick station, June 17, 2014, to June 18, 2014, multiple frequencies. And no, these are not RFI or anything like this, the signals have propagation and are heard across wide areas.

In early May, 2014, nickcarr in the #wunclub chat reported hearing an odd time tick station on 13159 kHz. The station never gave an ID and never had a minute indicator in the audio, just even, rhythmic, 1 second pips. Unfortunately I was working a heavy schedule at that time and really never had a chance to pursue the station much. I did get to record it on May 4, 2014, from about 0001 to 0101 UTC, at which time it went off air.

The center frequency of the station was 13159.58 kHz, and the time ticks were AM. There were spurs that appeared unmodulated + and – 3 kHz from the carrier. I am not saying they were unmodulated for sure, but if they were modulated I could not hear anything on them. The time ticks were about 5 ms in length, or about the same length as WWV and WWVH time ticks. The ticks seemed to start a few ms after WWV ticks did, but I did not get a good measurement on that.

And then the 13159.58 kHz signal stopped sending and I have not seen it since.

Fast forward to last night. The Pips ditter network was up and I was searching frequencies, when I ran across an every second time tick occurring on 17179.18 kHz. Looking closer at this signal I realized there were spurs each side of it at 3 kHz, and I mean 3 kHz down to the Hz. The time ticks were again about 5 msec. I checked 13159.58 but no sign of it there. So, the signal was back but on a new frequency.

While recording it I noticed several other frequencies that appeared to have the same signal. All totaled I ended up finding 45 frequencies associated with this signal. 20 of them had time ticks on them and 25 did not show detectable time pulses. Of the 25 that did not show time ticks several may have had audio, but were too weak to be sure. It is conceivable that every frequency had the time ticks, but some were just too weak for me to make out. All of them were mathematically related to other frequencies found by 3, 87, or 90 kHz down to less than 1 Hz deviation. 17179.18 kHz seemed to be the key frequency, with the others distributed around that in various patterns.

I watched and recorded the signal on multiple frequencies from 2337 UTC on June 17, to 0101 UTC on June 18, 2014, when the signal abruptly left the air on all freqs. Not that this is the same shutdown time I saw on May 4. At various times in that time period it faded up and down, from very strong to weak, and I got the impression the power level was not constant, as if the level variation might not have been propagation related. I was able to compare the arrival time of the pulses on this signal with the arrival time of pulses form WWV on 5000 kHz. They arrived within 1 msec of the WWV pulses. This has little meaning in and of itself, but if the pulses are sent in sync with WWV then the path distance from the transmitter to me is within 200 km of the distance from me to WWV.

In the following list of frequencies the [ ! ] means it appeared to be a primary signal. This was a strong signal with spurs around it. The [ * ] indicates there was no detectable audio. If there is no symbol after the frequency that means time ticks were detectable, but it was many dB down form the closest “primary” signal, possibly some kind of spur.

The numbers to the right of each frequency are the offset from 17179.18 kHz.

Time tick
Freqs

16909.18 kHz [ * ] -270
16912.18 kHz [ ! ] -267
16915.18 kHz [ ! ] -264
16918.18 kHz [ * ] -261
16999.18 kHz [ ] -180
17002.18 kHz [ ! ] -177
17005.18 kHz [ ] -174
17089.18 kHz [ ! ] -90
17092.18 kHz [ ! ] -87
17170.18 kHz [ * ] -9
17173.18 kHz [ * ] -6
17176.18 kHz [ ] -3
17179.18 kHz [ ! ] 0
17182.18 kHz [ ] 3
17185.18 kHz [ * ] 6
17188.18 kHz [ * ] 9
17191.18 kHz [ * ] 12
17260.18 kHz [ * ] 81
17263.18 kHz [ ] 84
17266.18 kHz [ ! ] 87
17269.18 kHz [ ! ] 90
17272.18 kHz [ ] 93
17275.18 kHz [ * ] 96
17347.18 kHz [ * ] 168
17350.18 kHz [ * ] 171
17353.18 kHz [ * ] 174
17356.18 kHz [ ! ] 177
17362.18 kHz [ * ] 183
17365.18 kHz [ * ] 186
17434.18 kHz [ * ] 255
17437.18 kHz [ * ] 258
17440.18 kHz [ * ] 261
17443.18 kHz [ ! ] 264
17446.18 kHz [ ! ] 267
17449.18 kHz [ * ] 270
17527.18 kHz [ * ] 348
17530.18 kHz [ * ] 351
17533.18 kHz [ ! ] 354
17536.18 kHz [ * ] 357
17614.18 kHz [ * ] 435
17620.18 kHz [ ! ] 441
17623.18 kHz [ * ] 444
17626.18 kHz [ * ] 447
17707.18 kHz [ * ] 528
17710.18 kHz [ ! ] 531

Today the signal seemed to come up about 1440 UTC, I am unsure if this was propagation bringing it up or if that is when it came on. There has appeared to be abrupt changes in signal level, looking much sharper than propagation fade up or down, this appears to be a step function. At times the signal has been strong, and other times it has been undetectable. While I think it has been on continuously since then (it is now 2245 UTC) I cannot be 100% sure of it.

Anyone else catching this thing?

T!
 

Token

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All frequencies shut down at 0101 UTC again, so it seems that is the hard shut off time. Still not sure what time they come on though. Prior to 1440, for sure.

A couple of people in the #wunclub chat heard these signals tonight, from California to Maryland.

T!
 

n0nhp

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Hearing them prior to 1500 UTC 2014-06-19
Again not on all the frequencies in the table but on a couple ot the triple groups.

Bruce
 

jdobbs2001

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Encoded messages for field agents preparing for a large scale operation in the next few weeks.

 
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Token

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Encoded messages for field agents preparing for a large scale operation in the next few weeks.

I assume that is humor, but without an emoticon it can be hard to tell ;)

However, on the off chance that you actually meant the transmission contained data I think I can at least partially address that. The pulse duration and timing are unvaried except for normal propagation smearing. The pulse amplitude and content are unvaried to the best of my ability to determine. There is no FSK, there is no TDM, there is no cyclic or repeating Phase Modulation although there does appear to be some phase distortion. In short, there does not appear to be any modulation other than the time ticks, and they each seem to consist of the same content, meaning at best it is a one bit message ;)

So far the earliest I have detected the signal is at 1202 UTC, and every day it shuts off at 0101 UTC plus or minus a few seconds. The signal has been on every day since first noted a week ago.

T!
 
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chief52ptfd

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I hear them now (01:09 UTC) in SE michigan. Not ticks more of a plusing of the noise level S2 to S3. Not the best SW set up just a long wire in the trees, but none the less I hear it. Hope this helps Token.
 

Token

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I hear them now (01:09 UTC) in SE michigan. Not ticks more of a plusing of the noise level S2 to S3. Not the best SW set up just a long wire in the trees, but none the less I hear it. Hope this helps Token.
Chief, I assume you are / were hearing another signal, and not these time ticks. The ticks are pretty definite ticks, and I see that they, and the carriers they were on, shut off at 0101 UTC. At 0109 UTC I had no signal on these freqs here at the house. If I had been at the radios I would not have just been watching the freqs at that time (0109 UTC), but I was not in the house, so I just left the SDR recording to catch the end of the signal, and I ended up recording 0030 to 0305 UTC.

T!
 

jdobbs2001

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I wonder if anyone is able to RDF these signals? Anyone own a DDF255-HF they can swing and see where this stuff is coming from.
 

SCPD

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Token I'm finally able to hear it this morning from my QTH. It was very faint but then suddenly appeared.

I jumped on a few remotes:

(measured in USB mode on 17178)

Eastern MI: S5
Western MI: S3-S4
Central MN: S4
Rochester, NY: Nil (but can hear the carrier)
MA: Nil (but can hear the carrier)
FL: Nil
Alberta, Canada: S9+ (very strong) (can see several carriers here around 17090)
Vancouver, Canada: S8 (very strong)

Could this be Canadian Mil?
 

Token

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Nick,

I am not sure going by power level is a very valid way to narrow down area. Right now I am at the office, and here I have a simple dipole cut for 6 MHz on the roof, so not a great antenna for these signals. I have a NetSDR connected to that antenna, and currently hear the signals. I normally look at the signal levels tuned on freq and in AM or CW mode, but using 17178 kHz and USB yields S6 to a tad over S9 in the last 10 minutes. And the signal is fairly often at those kinds of levels here.

Add to that the bearing from my home location appears to be about 065 true. Yes, I know a single bearing cut is just about as good as none, but still that bearing is well south of western Canada.

This signal does appear to have very rapid QSB, it can go from 10 over S9 to just hearing the carrier in a few seconds, and at times I have thought there was almost a step function to the power, as if it actually changed power, not just had fading.

T!
 
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