BOULDER, Colorado — Good news for people who are sticklers for punctuality: The National Institute of Standards and Technology has a new atomic clock that isn’t supposed to gain or lose a second in roughly 300 million years.
The new clock was launched Thursday. It’s located at the institute’s Boulder center. The clock is the nation’s civilian time standard. The U.S. Naval Observatory maintains military time.
The new clock, called NIST F-2, is about three times more accurate than the old one, called NIST F-1, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.
Both clocks use cesium atoms to determine the exact length of a second. They measure the frequency of a particular transition in the cesium atom — which is more than 9.1 billion vibrations per second — and use it to define one second.
One key difference is that the old clock operates at about 26.6 Celsius while the atoms in the new clock are kept at about minus 193 Celsius. That cooling significantly lowers the background radiation and reduces some tiny measurement errors in the old clock.