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What Is An Atomic Clock?

2016-02-18 05:04  
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An atomic clock is a kind of a clock that utilizes atomic resonance frequency as its time keeping feature. These clocks show the exact time and frequency standards and are identified as the primary standards for international time and also to manage and organize the frequency of the television broadcasts and GPS satellite services.


Atomic clock uses the resonance frequency of atoms as its resonator. A resonator is operated by the frequency of the micro wave electromagnetic radiation absorbed or emitted by the energy change of the molecule or atom. Thus an atomic clock generates standard frequencies. These are installed at various sites to show time signals. Alpha navigation transmitters and LORAN C. Atomic clocks are very useful in long wave and short wave broadcasting stations in order to deliver a exact frequency which can act as standard frequency. Also, atomic clocks have been used in long-baseline interferometer in radio-astronomy.

Atomic clocks do not use radio activity when they change energy levels instead a microwave signal that emits atoms is used. Earlier atomic clocks used masers with fixed equipment. Presently, precise atomic clocks use absorption spectroscopy of cold atoms in atomic fountains such as the NIST-F1.

Recent radio clocks can be attributed to atomic clocks and it offers a high quality atomic time over a large area using inexpensive equipment. Anyway, radio atomic clocks are not used in scientific works because it does not show the precise international time. But many retailers sell radio clocks as atomic clocks even though these clocks receive signals from precise atomic clocks, they are not atomic clocks.

Radio clocks tune into the radio signal emitted by the US atomic clock placed in Fort Collins, Colorado. These radio clocks resets themselves several times in a day in order to get the precise hour, minute and seconds and change to day light savings time. Radio clocks accurate even to the seconds and are very easy to use. Get a radio clock, fix the batteries and set the zone and the clock will do the rest.

The benefit of using atomic clocks is that atoms resonate at an exceedingly correct frequency. For instance, if you take an atom from the cesium and make it to resonate, it will resonate at the same frequency as any other atom in the cesium. This kind of accuracy is not seen in quartz clocks. In quartz clock, the oscillation is close to standard frequency, but the tolerances make every crystal to be different. This causes the change in frequency. Cesium atom constantly resonates at an unchanged frequency and this makes atomic clocks precise.

There are many new technologies that have enabled the prototype atomic clocks. These clocks are rather optical than microwave conversion. The main problem in optical clock is the difficulty of measuring directly optical frequencies.

Atomic clocks work on the basis of GPS navigation system. The GPS clock is the weighted average clock at the ground station and at the GPS satellites each has many atomic clocks.

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