September 24, 2002
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
A team of physicists and engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has developed an improved way to release the time genie from its bottle, so to speak. Building upon more than a decade of work on a frequency standard called the linear ion trap, the JPL Frequency Standards Laboratory team has developed and installed a new trapped ion atomic clock for the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington that essentially eliminates these walls. These recent JPL innovations are expected to provide 20 times improved stability over previous trapped ion clocks. The result is a clock that's effective stability is equivalent to about one minute in 10 billion years-the approximate age of the universe.
A '70s song by the late singer Jim Croce begins, "If I could save time in a bottle..." And when it comes to atomic clocks-those ultra-precise standard-keepers to which other precision timekeeping devices are set-some do just that. Atoms of an element are often held in a glass vacuum chamber whose walls are coated to prevent the atoms' collision with the walls from altering their internal compositions. Inevitably, however, such collisions still distort the atoms and make them 'tick' differently, causing the clocks to run fast or slow.
The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA-Built Atomic Clock Does The Time Warp, Again." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 September 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020924071844.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2002, September 24). NASA-Built Atomic Clock Does The Time Warp, Again. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 8, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020924071844.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA-Built Atomic Clock Does The Time Warp, Again." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020924071844.htm (accessed March 8, 2014).