New Atomic Clock Launched at NIST
In most of our day to day lives, losing some time due to inaccurate time pieces probably does not amount to much more than a narrowly missed bus. For many systems we rely on every day though, losing even a fraction of a second can cause problems. To help prevent that from happening, NIST has launched its newest atomic clock; NIST-F2.
Like NIST-F1, which is still in use, NIST-F2 is a cesium atomic clock, which means they both measure the vibrations of cesium atoms to count time. This makes sense as the second is actually defined as 9,192,631,770 vibrations of a cesium atom. The new clock is significantly more accurate though, to the point that over the course of 300 million years it should neither gain nor lose a second. This improved accuracy in part comes from it being kept at the low temperature of 80.15 K. This reduces the effects of external radiation sources that can causes errors with NIST-F1, as it operates at room temperature.
Part of NIST-F2's purpose will be in reporting to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, which uses atomic clock data to set Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and according to its data, NIST-F2 is now the world’s most accurate atomic clock. It will also be used to help calibrate commercial atomic clocks, which have uses in the power grid, stock markets, and global positioning satellites.