YVTO: Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory, Caracas, Venezuela
Historical compilation of what was one of the most important time signals in South America YVTO, transmitted from the “Juan Manuel Cagigal” Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory, in the city of Caracas, Venezuela
I invite you to a tour of the first astronomical institution in Venezuela, more precisely the Venezuelan Legal Hour division (HLV), located in the “Juan Manuel Cagigal” Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory, in the city of Caracas.
This is an investigation and compilation of data from one of the largest institutions that the country of Venezuela had at the time.
This report could not have been carried out without the help of the Venezuelan colleague, Radio listener and Electronic Engineer in Telecommunications, Mr. Ramón Jaramillo. Who maintained in the middle of the 2000s, during a period an interesting and fluid exchange of correspondence, with the person who was in his time the head of the Venezuelan Legal Hour (HLV) service, the man: Jesús Alberto Escalona.
Let’s start the Venezuelan Legal Hour (HLV), it was broadcast in short wave at the frequency of 5000 kHz.
Its transmitter was located in the park, outside the main building of the “Juan Manuel Cagigal” Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory.
It was a small heated house specially designed to house the transmitter, of which unfortunately we only have a photographic record.
Remembering that all these information are also old official data, provided at the time in an information booklet distributed by the so-called “Ministry of Defense, General Command of the Navy, Directorate of Hydrography and Navigation, Cagigal Observatory of Venezuela”, together with its Qsl confirmation of receipt.
These are some of the technical notes of the Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory “Juan Manuel Cagigal”, division HORA LEGAL DE VENEZUELA (HLV)
Transmitter Model: Harris RF 727 Transmitter
Manufacturer: Harris Corporation, USA
QRG: 6100kHz – 5000 kHz
The frequency of the Cagigal Observatory of Venezuela, was under what was called internationally protected frequencies and that ranged from 2.5 MHz to 25 MHz, being assigned in the first instance in 1968 the frequency of 6,100 kHz.
Then in 1988 the frequency was changed to 5,000 kHz.
This was because it is said that at the time an altercation arose with Radio Deutsche Welle DW “The Voice of Germany”, which at that time was broadcasting from the city of Bonn, which was the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany until the reunification of the country in 1990.
Radio Deutsche Welle DW “The Voice of Germany”, transmitted at that time with a power of 250kW to 500kW its world service in German for the Americas and coincidentally used that same frequency, from the Cagigal Observatory, which barely transmits with 1kW or 1000 Watts .
Modulation type: A3H.
Power and Antenna: The transmitter was 5 kW, but it was always used in the range from 1 kW to 2 kW, antenna (bipole type, oriented north-south).
QTH: Caracas Venezuela, latitude 10° 30′ 22.14″ north and longitude 66° 55′ 42.06″ west.
Broadcast hours: it was broadcast 24 hours a day (time zone + 4 hours of GMT, longitude 60° 00′ 00″ west) where the legal time of Venezuela was defined, located in Punta de Playa.
Precision Time Signal: During the entire transmission of the signal, a top of 100 ms is emitted. duration at a frequency of 1,000 c/s. in every second, except in the 30 second of each minute which was omitted, of which it was taken as a reference to know that there are exactly 30 seconds left for the minute. In the 60 second of every minute there was a top of 500 ms. duration at a frequency of 800 c/s. (It indicated the beginning of the minute previously announced).
Accuracy of the Hourly Signal: Hourly Signal of the Coordinated Universal Time (+1) to the thousandth of a second.
Announcement: In seconds 41 to 50, the origin of the signal was announced with the phrases, “YVTO station transmitting from the naval observatory, Juan Manuel Cagigal, Caracas Venezuela.”
Subsequently, the announcement was made from seconds 52 to 57, everything was Spanish, it was broadcast on the air for hours, minutes and seconds.
Talking Hour Telephone Service: This service was given 24 hours a day by a telephone number, these calls have a duration of 30 seconds during which the hour, minutes and seconds could be heard.
Brief history of the Venezuelan Legal Hour service
The following data is part of the history written by the Hydrography and Navigation Service of Venezuela and describes the following:
The Venezuelan Legal Hour Service (HLV) was one of the best known agencies in the daily public environment of the Hydrography, Oceanography, Meteorology and Nautical Cartography Service. This is due to the fact that it harbored a centuries-old tradition of time measurement services.
The creation of the Cagigal Observatory in 1888, in addition to the incipient development of the first technical institutions of a public nature in Venezuela, brought as a consequence the imperative need to define a Schedule Pattern that governs the measurement of time in an unequivocal and unique way, so that it was capable of being disseminated through the media available at the time. It was thus that from 1912 on, having adopted the Villa de Cura meridian (longitude 67° 30′ W) as the first geographical reference for a time system in Venezuela, the HLV began to supply the Central Office of National Telegraphs with astronomical determinations. local time.
In 1939, the time transmission tests began through two radio stations with national coverage: Radio Broadcasting Caracas and Radiodifusora Venezuela, which adopted time synchronization mechanisms with the HLV Service through the aid of telegraphic systems, while Procedures for obtaining and setting local and sidereal time remained largely intact until the 1950s.
In 1959, the installation of the first quartz clocks began, of novel precision for the time (one second of error every 30 years), whose absolute calibration was made systematically from astronomical observations of selected stars. This true “technological quantum leap” was completed with the incorporation of an automatic time announcement equipment by telephone, in addition to the inauguration of the standard frequency service for technical applications.
In 1965, by order of the National Congress, it was established as the official meridian to set the HLV, the one corresponding to 60° W of geographic longitude, close to the town of Punta de Playa (Edo. Delta Amacuro). With this, Venezuela officially joins the international provisions in terms of the establishment of time systems with entire differences with respect to the Greenwich meridian.
Starting in 1968, the Cagigal Observatory began to transmit the half-time hourly signal in radial form, modulated at the 6,100 kHz frequency.
In 1972, the International Time Office (BIPM) based in Paris, France, recognized the HLV Service as one of the authorities responsible for the transmission of the standard frequency and time signal, being the only one in South America that carried out continuous transmission.
In 1989 that frequency was changed to 5,000 kHz, leaving the HLV transmission within the range of frequencies internationally protected for these purposes.
In 1981, two HP5061-A clocks regulated by Cesium atomic patterns came into operation, guaranteeing one second of error every 3,000 years, a ZAG-100 dual Talking Hour system, a frequency divider, a satellite signal time receiver (GOES) taking the time calibration by astronomical instruments and a time programmer into the background.
On August 11, 1988, according to Administrative Providence No. 2306, the Juan Manuel Cagigal Observatory is the body in charge of exclusively disseminating the legal time throughout the national territory.
Entering the HLV service in the 2000s, it acquired modern equipment, such as two atomic clocks brand Agilent Technologie model 5071-A, with accuracies of one second of error every 1.6 million years, two Digital Talking Hours brand IDAS-Atis, controlled by a Meinberg model 167 GPS satellite receiver. They also acquired a Voltek brand frequency divider, model VK-100B intelligent, which received the calibration frequency through atomic clocks for adjustment. Also completing the station is a Samsung brand computerized unit to control the two hours of digital speakers and a Master Guard brand UPS system, to guarantee the power of all equipment for a period of six (06) uninterrupted hours.
Now after these data I have to mention and contribute that the short-wave transmitter, after the Venezuelan crisis worsens, stopped having maintenance and was out of service, without further news, more than 15 years ago.
The Venezuelan Legal Hour (HLV) service continued to provide only the connection with the state companies CANTV (Compañía Anónima Nacional Teléfonos de Venezuela) and Movilnet (cellular telephony), until these services were also eliminated without any explanation.
Until now, in Venezuela, only the service is available via the Internet, entering the following link: http://www.shn.mil.ve/navegacion/hl/hora
Upon entering the building of the Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory of Caracas, more precisely the room of the Venezuelan Legal Hour Service (HLV), we can see next to the rack of instruments that make up the measurement of time, a small and well-cared museum of the first clocks and measuring instruments.
Time Generation, Conservation and Diffusion Room
Leaving the small museum behind, we continue in the same room where the Generation, Conservation and Diffusion time facilities are located.
Before going any further, it is necessary to briefly understand what is meant by generation, conservation and diffusion of time.
What is meant by generation?
The generation of time and frequency, that is, the atomic second, is carried out in the HLV Division, using commercial Cesium clocks.
Atomic time by the International System of Units (SI) in 1967 is defined as: “The second is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods corresponding to the transition between two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the radiation of the cesium 133 atom.”
What is meant by conservation?
The conservation of the “greatness of time and frequency” is carried out through the uninterrupted operation of atomic clocks and their stability evaluation through the measurements of the difference in time and frequency between the clocks.
What is meant by diffusion?
The diffusion of the “greatness of time and frequency” is carried out through the calibration of atomic clocks, frequency counters, stopwatches and other different equipment. These measurements are sent to the division’s laboratory where they are verified through other standard signals and through the official time synchronization network.
In the room where the Generation, Conservation and Diffusion time equipment racks are located, we can see 7 racks in total, with different equipment such as: two Agilent Technologie model 5071-A atomic clocks, two IDAS-Atis Digital Talking Hours , controlled by a GPS satellite receiver model 167, Meinberg brand, a frequency divider brand Voltek, model VK-100B intelligent, a Samsung brand computerized unit to control the two hours digital speakers and many other equipment used for measuring time.
Photographs of the meteorological systems, which are located outside the property
Brief history of the Cagigal Observatory
The Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory of Caracas was created by decree of President Juan Pablo Rojas Paúl on September 8, 1888.
It settled on the “Quintana Hill”, and later changed its name to “Cagigal Hill”, because that is how the institution was named in honor of the renowned astronomer and mathematician.
The new building, completed in 1956, is a clear manifestation of traditions that is expressed by a central volume like a rotunda, and neoclassical compositional principles.
The building exhibits a number of refined details, with ornamental and decorative accents, both inside and outside.
Parallel to the activity of meteorological and astronomical observation and as an intrinsic need of the latter, the Observatory develops the determination and maintenance of the time, which with the addition of technology became the current Service of Legal Time and Standard Frequency, supported by information satellite time and atomic frequency patterns.
Among the most remarkable astronomical phenomena for spectacularity and scientific contribution observed and recorded by the Cagigal Observatory for more than a century of life, the two visits of Halley’s Comet in 1910 and 1985 respectively, and the total eclipse of the sun in 1916 should be mentioned. Meteorological issues include the continuous recording, since 1891, of the climatic parameters of the Caracas Valley and the monitoring, since 1961, of the conditions of the Eastern Caribbean Sea for forecasting purposes for maritime navigation.
In 1931, Cagigal was equipped with its first seismograph and in 1933 the first earthquake recorded by this device occurred, thus initiating the seismological investigation in Venezuela. The occurrence of the Caracas earthquake (6.3 Richter scale) of July 29, 1967 and the participation of Venezuela in measurements and studies immediate to the earthquakes in Managua and Guatemala that occurred on December 23, 1972 and February 4, 1976, respectively, they constitute milestones in the continuous work of observation, recording and analysis of seismic activity, a fundamental element in a country of rapid development that involves works of considerable volume sensitive to seismic risk. In 1982, this responsibility was transferred to the Venezuelan Foundation for Seismological Research, FUNVISIS, although the oldest station in the national network continues to operate in Cagigal.
In 1958, the Observatory was transferred from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Defense. Since then the Navy has led its destiny, adding to the interest of the Institute for meteorology and astronomy, the concern for marine sciences. It is a decisive turn, which requires long-range initiatives under the shadow of the Hydrography and Navigation Directorate, among others, the establishment of networks of meteorological observation stations for the study of the climate and meteorological forecast, and of lighthouses for the signaling of navigation hazards; as well as the execution of hydrographic campaigns for the elaboration of nautical charts. All these elements are intended to guarantee the safety of human life at sea. Finally, it requires the commitment of oceanographic knowledge of the jurisdictional sea, an imperative requirement for the development of a country of maritime destination, such as Venezuela.
Below we can mention different events of great relevance for the observatory, such as:
Bardou Refractor Telescope
The first equatorial telescope in Venezuela, acquired in 1889 from its owner Henry Lord Boulton by the National Government for the newly created Cagigal Observatory.
This French-made refracting telescope, built by A. Bardou, Paris, is 153 millimeters in diameter and 1,600 millimeters in focal length. It was used for the observation of Halley’s Comet in 1910 and the total solar eclipse of the year 1916 visualized from Tucacas.
Currently it is said that it is still kept as an instrument of valued historical value in the headquarters of the “Juan Manuel Cagigal” Observatory.
Universal Theodolite AUZ-27
Astronomical instruments used to determine the local time with respect to the apparent movement of the stars.
This theodolite was acquired by Dr. Luis Ugueto in 1936. However, it is known that the first Director of the Cagigal Observatory, Dr. Mauricio Buscalioni, used a similar equipment of invoice, approximately 1880; With the help of these high-precision instruments, the search began to improve the accuracy of the time in Cagigal, whose readings obtained are compared with the hour chronometers in those early times of activity of the Observatory.
Cobblestone exterior structure, where the Lummert refractor telescope is housed, donated by Henry Lord Boulton at the beginning of this century, refurbished in Germany and later reinstalled in this dome in 1961. The sky highlights the constellation of Orion, one of the most visible In the latitudes of Venezuela, Orion represents the hunter or gladiator killed by Artemis, daughter of Zeus and sister of Apollo, goddess of the hunt and queen of the forest.
Among the main stars of this striking constellation, Betelgeuse, belonging to a multiple star system, located in the northern hemisphere, a red supergiant, 450 times larger than our sun, stands out. The second in brightness, the star Rígel, located in the southern hemisphere, a bluish-white supergiant. Rígel has a surface temperature of 13,000 degrees Celsius, 33 times higher and 1,500 times brighter than the sun. The three stars located in the center of this constellation, also very hot and of singular brightness, represent within the mythological figure the hunter’s belt from which the sword hangs.
The availability of technologies, including satellite and trained personnel, allow the “Juan Manuel Cagigal” Observatory to forecast the formation and follow-up of the trajectory of one of the most destructive natural phenomena: the “hurricane.” The issuance of the corresponding warnings of danger constitute an important element in the mission of guaranteeing the safety of human life at sea, and the taking of preventive measures in the coastal areas.
“DAVID” in August 1979 and “ALLEN” in the same month of 1980, have been the hurricanes of greater magnitude and damage that during this century have hit the Caribbean and the North Atlantic.
Images from the Observatory Hill
Who was Juan Manuel Cagigal y Odoardo?
Juan Manuel Cagigal y Odoardo (Barcelona, August 10, 1803 – Yaguaraparo, February 10, 1856), sometimes written Cajigal, was a Venezuelan engineer, military man, mathematician and journalist. He is considered the founder of mathematical and engineering studies in Venezuela and founded the first astronomical observatory in the country.
Considered the founder of mathematical and engineering studies in Venezuela, as well as laid the foundations for the first astronomical observatory in the country.
Born in Barcelona, Anzoátegui state (Venezuela), on August 10, 1803, Cagigal completed his studies of mathematics in France in 1828, a preparation that earned him a chair in that specialty at an educational institution in Paris.
At the end of that year he returned to Venezuela and offered his services to José María Vargas, who immediately recommended his appointment.
His scientific works include his Course on Astronomy and Memories on integrals between limits, in addition to the Treaty of Elemental Mechanics.
His remains were buried in Río Caribe, Sucre, and later transferred to the church of San Juan de Dios in La Guaira.
In his honor, the Cagigal Naval Observatory was founded on September 10, 1888 and the municipality was named Juan Manuel Cajigal and the asteroid (12359) Cajigal, discovered by the astronomer Orlando Naranjo Villaroel.
The observation of the stars and the establishment of methods to determine the state of the weather, became from September 8, 1888, in a rigorous scientific work, with the creation of the Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory of Caracas.
But what very few people know is that from the beginning that institute did not bear the name of Juan Manuel Cagigal, who was the initiator of mathematical studies in Venezuela, among other things.
Nor is it known that the formal meteorological observations in the country were carried out by the College of Engineers of Venezuela, founded in 1861. Two of the great Venezuelan wise men, the famous Agustín Aveledo and the no less famous Alejandro Ibarra, were the ones who They occupied these important tasks, although previously, in isolation, some people or groups carried out similar tasks, mainly the famous Baron Alejandro de Humboldt, in the 18th century.
Importance of creating a specific division of time in Venezuela
To understand the importance of creating a specific time division, within the Caracas Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory, we list the following:
The need to standardize the civil time of a certain place on Earth with solar time began to become necessary at the end of the 19th century.
The idea arises from the Canadian nationalized Scottish engineer, Sanford Fleming (1827 – 1915), while he was involved in the construction of the railroad in Canada. In 1876 he raised the need to standardize the hours in 24 Time Zones. This idea was discussed and accepted at the International Conference of the Meridian, held in Washington in 1884, which decided that the Zero Meridian, which would serve as the basis for the establishment of the time worldwide, would be in the Greenwich Meridian, to which it was assigned Zero Time Zone. It was not until 1929 that all countries agreed to organize their hours based on the geographic longitude they occupy.
In Venezuela, the Legal Hour Service was established in 1912 and the Naval Observatory “Juan Manuel Cagigal” was assigned the task of managing the Venezuelan Legal Hour. At that time it was decided that the Meridian that was going to serve as the basis for it would be the Meridian 67° 30′ that passes through the town of Villa de Cura, Aragua State. As each Time Zone has an extension of 15° (360° / 24 hours), the choice of this Meridian corresponds to the dividing line between the Time Zones -4 (60° Meridian) and -5 (75° Meridian).
Recommendations of the International Office of the Hour, based in Paris, France, led the government to decree on January 1, 1965, the choice of the 60° Meridian that passes through Punta Playa, at that time the Amacuro Delta Territory, as the Meridian that would give the Legal Hour for Venezuela.
In this way, to establish the Legal Time of Venezuela, 4 hours had to be subtracted from the Zero Meridian Time. In this sense, when it is 12 noon in Greenwich, in Venezuela it is 8 a.m. same day.
The other option that existed at the time, the 75th Meridian, was rejected outright, since it does not pass through any Venezuelan city or population.
The choice of the 60° Meridian to define the Legal Time of Venezuela generated a discrepancy with the solar time. For the same date, when the Legal Time of Venezuela marked 6 a.m. while in the east of the country the Sun was on the horizon, for the west it was still dark. I was able to verify this situation by comparing the lighting of the sky while I was in Caripito, Monagas State and in Machiques, Zulia State. Two populations located almost at both ends of the national geography. This is the case since while the solar time for the east is 6 a.m., for the west it is 5 a.m.
Now, we are trying to correct this small discrepancy, but instead of retaking again the 67° 30′ meridian of Villa de Cura, which is equidistant between the -4 Zones (60° meridian) and -5 (75° meridian), It is considering the 66° Meridian that passes through the town of San José de Río Chico. Although this Meridian corresponds to the geographic center of the country, it does not correspond to the dividing line between the Time Zones. The time difference with Greenwich would be 4 hours 24 minutes.
Although the decision to choose the Time Zone to define the Legal Time of a country is the sovereign decision of each government, the International Time Office recommends, as far as possible, that this designation be made in the entire Time Zones. However, the geographic location of several countries has led them to take fractional hours with respect to Time Zones. The most correct, from the astronomical point of view, is that Venezuela retakes Meridian for its Legal Hour, the one corresponding to the Meridian that passes through Villa de Cura (67° 30′).
Energy crisis and time change
In a controversial measure, Venezuela advanced an hour to 30 minutes in 2016 to save energy in the face of the crisis in the country’s electricity sector.
The measure joins other actions launched by the government such as the reduction of working hours in the public sector and holidays in that sector on Fridays.
But analysts estimate that this will not prevent the increase in electricity rationing.
In this way, Venezuela returned to the time zone of -04: 00 GMT that it had until December 2007 when then-President Hugo Chávez decided to delay the clocks for half an hour so that Venezuelans could take advantage of sunlight.
The Venezuelan government takes a series of measures of electricity rationing and reduction of working hours in the public sector to try to save energy.
However, the change in the time zone does not seem to solve the crisis, to which the lack of fuel is currently added.
Today in Venezuela, temporary power outages are very common in some states of the country.
Conclusion and opinion of Daniel Camporini
Memories of better times …
Actually, there is not much I can add to this detailed description made about the YVTO station in charge of disseminating the official time of Venezuela. I would like to comment that in the not too distant past, Venezuelan radio broadcasting was one of the most attractive for those of us who have practiced Diexism.
Going through old publications or simply visiting the pages of the WRTH will show us that, for example, by the end of the 1970s there were some eighty stations that used short-wave frequencies from different states, which showed the reality of a thriving country with a destiny of greatness.
Today, unfortunately, Venezuela is practically destroyed as a country and of course its broadcasting is decimated, with private and commercial radio having almost disappeared.
Those large national networks such as YVKE World Radio or the powerful transmitters of Radio Rumbos, Ecos del Torbes, Radio Continente, Radio Táchira or La Voz de Carabobo, just to name a few, were the ones that gave prestige to Venezuelan broadcasting by transferring abroad the customs and culture of its people and that are now only shadows of the past.
Daniel Camporini is an Argentine DXer, journalist, researcher, radio producer, with more than 40 years of activity. He is currently the producer of the program “Historias de Radio”, editor of the page of the same name that is published on Facebook and author of the recently published book “Un Viaje por el Éter” where he refers to the birth and development of Argentine radio broadcasting.
Final Conclusion, by Martin Butera
Listening to the frequency stations of the time signal is an interesting aspect of Utility DXing. Many may not be aware that these stations were and are operating in different parts of the world.
Today a few stations continue to transmit in short waves, the purpose of these stations is to cover various branches of science, such as seismology, meteorology, astronomy, geodesy, etc.
Between the different stations that are still operational, a constant effort is being made to coordinate their time internationally so that in the future they can all maintain and supply a standard world time without the slightest difference.
Venezuela had one of the most important utility stations in South America at the time.
In this report, we wanted to show a bit of Venezuela’s power, since unfortunately today the news that we know from that country is from a territory in crisis, shaken by poverty and hyperinflation.
Between the 1950s and 1990s, Venezuela was a South American power, with great economic and political stability. Venezuela became the fourth richest country in the world.
In 1950, while the rest of the world struggled to recover from World War II, Venezuela was the fourth richest country on the planet, measured by the size of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP, total sum of wealth generated in goods and services ) Per inhabitant. This country, once considered “the American dream of the South”, was four times richer than Japan and 12 times richer than China.
In 1999, the country changed its model to socialism and elected President Hugo Chávez.
Chávez ruled until his death in 2013, before he died, Chávez chose Maduro as his successor and he continues to this day.
Regarding the time signal of Venezuela, it has not been heard on the air for many years and the state of conservation of the observatory is unknown.
From here my solidarity with all the beautiful people of Venezuela, who still resist and fight with great dignity every day for a better future.
About the Author
Martín Butera: He has listened to shortwave radio and Amateur Radio since 1992 with the Argentine callsign LU9EFO and the Brazilian callsign PT2ZDX.
Martín is a Radio Amateur with more than 30 years of experience, and has participated in DX expeditions throughout South and Central America.
Martin contributes, writes and compiles information for several radio bulletins that cover the topic of world radio and is our accredited correspondent for the Radio Heritage Foundation in Brazil and throughout the South American region.
Martin is the founder in Brazil, of the CREW called 15 point 61 (15.61), now called only 61 sixty-one.
Martín Butera is a journalist, documentarian and was a founding member of Radio Atomika 106.1 MHz (Buenos Aires, Argentina) https://radioatomika.com.ar/
He currently lives in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.