A multi-band wire antenna that performs exceptionally well even though it confounds antenna modeling software
Article by W5GI ( SK )
The design of the Mystery antenna was inspired by an article written by James E. Taylor, W2OZH, in which he described a low profile collinear coaxial array. This antenna covers 80 to 6 meters with low feed point impedance and will work with most radios, with or without an antenna tuner. It is approximately 100 feet long, can handle the legal limit, and is easy and inexpensive to build. It’s similar to a G5RV but a much better performer especially on 20 meters.
The W5GI Mystery antenna, erected at various heights and configurations, is currently being used by thousands of amateurs throughout the world. Feedback from users indicates that the antenna has met or exceeded all performance criteria. The “mystery” part of the antenna comes from the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to model and explain why the antenna works as well as it does. The antenna is especially well suited to hams who are unable to erect towers and rotating arrays. All that’s needed is two vertical supports (trees work well) about 130 feet apart to permit installation of wire antennas at about 25 feet above ground.
The W5GI Multi-band Mystery Antenna is a fundamentally a collinear antenna comprising three half waves in-phase on 20 meters with a half-wave 20 meter line transformer. It may sound and look like a G5RV but it is a substantially different antenna on 20 meters. Louis Varney’s antenna, although three half waves long, was an out-of-phase aerial. Mr. Varney had two specific reasons for selecting a 3 half waves on 20… he wanted a four-lobe radiation pattern, at least unity gain and a low feed point impedance. The Mystery antenna, on the other hand, presents a six-lobe pattern on 20 meters, gain broadside to the antenna, and also low feed point impedance to simplify matching the antenna to the rig. Additionally, the Mystery antenna is designed to work at least as well, on the other HF bands as a G5RV. In short, the Mystery antenna is a sky wire that incorporates the advantages of a 3 element collinear and the G5RV antenna.
In its standard configuration, a collinear antenna uses phase reversing stubs added at the ends of a center fed dipole. These stubs put the instantaneous RF current in the end elements in phase with that in the center element. You can make these phase reversing stubs from open wire line or coaxial cable. Normally, a shorted quarter-wave stub is used, but an open-ended half wave stub would also work. The problem is that the dangling stubs are unwieldy and or unsightly.
An article written by James E. Taylor, “COCOA-A Collinear Coaxial Array,” published in 73 Amateur Radio, August 1989, describes a low profile collinear coaxial array. According to Taylor, when you apply a RF voltage to the center conductor at the open end, the stub causes a voltage phase lag of 180 degrees at the adjacent coax shield. This happens because the RF is delayed by one quarter-cycle as it passes from left to right, inside the coax to the shorted (opposite) end. There’s another quarter-cycle delay as the wave passes back from right to left inside the coax and emerges on the shield at the open end. Add up the delays and you get a total time delay of one-half cycle, or 180 degrees. In essence, the coax section serves two purposes: it provides the necessary delay and provides part of the radiating element in a collinear array.
The first prototypes of the Mystery antenna used the Taylor formulas, which which called for cutting the wires to a quarter wave length using the formula 234/f(Mhz) and the coax, using the same formula, but applying an appropriate velocity factor. The first version of my antenna worked well on 20 meters but failed as a multi-band antenna.
The second antenna was built with constructed with the coax cut to the same length as the wire. This was done with the belief that perhaps the coax didn’t behave like coax and therefore the velocity factor wasn’t applicable. Surprisingly, the new antenna performed exceptionally well on 20 meters, had low SWR and performed just as well on the other HF bands and 6 meters as my G5RV reference antenna.
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