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How does an atomic clock work?
The UK’s Atomic Clock is the most precise timekeeping device in the known universe. Atomic clocks keep time so accurate that they’re expected to lose one second over the next million years or more. The atomic clock at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is a caesium fountain clock and is expected to lose its first second in roughly 138 million years.
The NPL’s caesium fountain atomic clock measures the energy required to change a property of caesium atoms (known as “spin”), to provide a tick.
The scientific definition of this tick is the electromagnetic waves required to accomplish a “spin flip”. One Universal standard second is said to have passed once 9,192,631,770 fluctuations in these electromagnetic waves have been recorded.
Roughly 100 million caesium atoms are gathered together and are exposed to these electromagnetic waves. The frequency is adjusted until the spin flip is observed. At that point, the scientists know the right frequency to define a Universal second.
The NPL-CsF2 atomic clock provides an international standard which the world’s clocks are compared to. An area of scientific research where the UK leads the pack.
What is atomic radio control?
We’ve established that the UK’s caesium atomic clock is the most accurate clock ever observed. But the atomic clock is a huge and expensive piece of scientific equipment. Thanks to radio broadcast technology, the accuracy of the atomic clock is available to everybody using an Acctim radio controlled timepiece. Atomatiq® is our trademark for this outstanding technology.
In the UK, The NPL broadcasts a dedicated time signal that provides accurate and reliable atomic time. Available 24 hours a day across the UK and beyond, the MSF radio signal carries accurate time and date information that is received and decoded by Acctim radio controlled clocks and watches. The MSF signal is transmitted from Anthorn Radio Station in Cumbria. The MSF radio control signal broadcasts at a distance of 1000km from Anthorn which covers the entire UK and has been reported to have been received throughout much of Northern and Western Europe. It’s worth noting that periodically the NPL perform routine maintenance on the MSF transmitter, meaning radio control signals can often be weak or non-existent for two weeks at a time. This shouldn’t negatively affect your Acctim radio controlled watch, but it’s worth remembering if your watch is unable to pick up a signal. Check the NPL website for details about their maintenance schedule.