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An ultra-precise atomic clock the size of a four-slice toaster is set to zip into outer space this summer, NASA said.
Atomic clocks are the most powerful time-measuring devices human beings have ever built. Broadly speaking, they work by observing atoms that are known to do certain things — like emit light — extremely regularly and quickly, then counting how many times those atoms do those things. The most powerful atomic clocks on Earth can go billions of years without losing a second of time.
Time - Deal - Sorts - Experiments - Fractions
And measuring time extremely precisely is a big deal. All sorts of scientific experiments rely on measuring fractions of a second without errors. The Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network wouldn't work without precise measurements of the time it takes radio signals to bounce around. And spacecraft beyond Earth's orbit rely on Earth-bound atomic clocks and radio signals to precisely determine their location in space and make course adjustments.
Every deep-space mission that makes course corrections needs to send signals to ground stations on Earth. Those ground stations rely on atomic clocks to measure just how long those signals took to arrive, which allows them to locate the spacecraft's position down to the meter in the vast vacuum. They then send signals back, telling the craft where they are and where to go next.
Process - Ground - Station
That's a cumbersome process, and it means any given ground station can support only...
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