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Atomic Clocks
What is an atomic clock?

tomic clocks are specialized clocks that use electronic transition frequency in the microwave optical, or ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum of atoms as a frequency standard for its timekeeping element. Atomic clocks are currently the most accurate form of keeping time. They are used in global navigation satellite systems such as GPS systems.

Where is the United States atomic clock located?

In the United States, the standard of time is regulated by the US Naval Observatory's Master Clock (USNO), the official source of time for the Department of Defense. The effects of these mechanisms are felt by all of us in the f­orm of alarm clocks, computers, answering machines and meeting schedules.

When was the atomic clock invented? and where?

In 1945, Columbia University physics professor Isidor Rabi suggested that a clock could be made from a technique he developed in the 1930s called atomic beam magnetic resonance. By 1949, the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST) announced the world’s first atomic clock using the ammonia molecule as the source of vibrations, and by 1952 it announced the first atomic clock using cesium atoms as the vibration source, NBS-1.

How many different types of atomic clocks are there?

There are 3 different types of atomic clocks, they all use different methods of keeping time.
  • Cesium atomic clocks employ a beam of cesium atoms. The clock separates cesium atoms of different energy levels by magnetic field.
  • Hydrogen atomic clocks maintain hydrogen atoms at the required energy level in a container with walls of a special material so that the atoms don't lose their higher energy state too quickly.
  • Rubidium atomic clocks, the simplest and most compact of all, use a glass cell of rubidium gas that changes its absorption of light at the optical rubidium frequency when the surrounding microwave frequency is just right.

Can I buy an atomic clock?

Atomic clocks can be purchased, yet they are extremely expensive. A company called Agilent Technologies sells one, but it costs more than $50,000.

There are less expensive versions that use time signals sent out by the US atomic clocks to tell the time. These clocks are quite accurate clocks. Lacrosse Technology Makes these type of Clocks, so does Meade.