NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Experimental comparison of time synchronization techniques by means of light signals and clock transport on the rotating earthAn experiment was conducted to investigate the equivalence of two methods of time transfer in a noninertial reference frame: by means of an electromagnetic signal using laser light pulses and by means of the slow ground transport of a hydrogen maser atomic clock. The experiment may also be interpreted as an investigation of whether the one-way speeds of light in the east-west and west-east directions on the rotating earth are the same. The light pulses were sent from a laser coupled to a telescope at the NASA Goddard Optical Research Facility (GORF) in Greenbelt, Maryland to the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO) in Washington, DC. The optical path was made possible by a 30-cm flat mirror on a water tower near GORF and a 25-cm flat mirror on top of the Washington National Cathedral near USNO. The path length was 26.0 km with an east-west component of 20.7 km. The pulses were reflected back over the same path by a portable array of corner cube reflectors. The transmission and return times were measured with a stationary Sigma Tau hydrogen maser and a University of Maryland event timer at GORF, while the times of reflection were measured with a similar maser and event timer combination carefully transported to USNO. Both timekeeping systems were housed in highly insulated enclosures and were maintained at constant temperatures to within +/- 0.1 C by microprocessor controllers. The portable system was also protected from shock and vibration by pneumatic supports. The difference delta(T) between the directly measured time of reflection according to the portable clock and the time of reflection calculated from the light pulse signal times measured by the stationary clock was determined. For a typical trip delta(T) is less than 100 ps and the corresponding limit on an anisotropy of the one-way speed of light is delta(c/c) is less than 1.5 x 10(exp -6). This the only experiment to date in which two atomic clocks were calibrated at one location, one was slowly transported to the other end of a path, and the times of transmission, reflection, and return of short light pulses sent in different directions along the path were registered.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Nelson, R. A.
(Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Alley, C. O.
(Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Rayner, J. D.
(Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Shih, Y. H.
(Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Steggerda, C. A.
(Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Wang, B. C.
(Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Agnew, B. W.
(Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
August 16, 2013
Publication Date
June 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Goddard Space Flight Center, The 24th Annual Precise Time and Time Interval (PTTI) Applications and Planning Meeting
Subject Category
Physics (General)
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
Document Inquiry

Available Downloads

There are no available downloads for this record.
No Preview Available