Atomic Clocks Monitored to 0.2 ns using Satellite Geodesy


Blewitt, G. (2014). Atomic Clocks Monitored to 0.2 ns using Satellite Geodesy. Perimeter Institute. https://pirsa.org/14060014


Blewitt, Geoff. Atomic Clocks Monitored to 0.2 ns using Satellite Geodesy. Perimeter Institute, Jun. 17, 2014, https://pirsa.org/14060014


          @misc{ pirsa_14060014,
            doi = {10.48660/14060014},
            url = {https://pirsa.org/14060014},
            author = {Blewitt, Geoff},
            keywords = {},
            language = {en},
            title = {Atomic Clocks Monitored to 0.2 ns using Satellite Geodesy},
            publisher = {Perimeter Institute},
            year = {2014},
            month = {jun},
            note = {PIRSA:14060014 see, \url{https://pirsa.org}}

Geoff Blewitt University of Nevada Reno


Satellite geodesy uses the timing of photons from satellites to determine the Earth’s time varying shape, gravity field, and orientation in space, with accuracies of <1 part per billion, or millimeters at the Earth’s surface, and centimeters at satellite altitude. Implicit in mm-level GPS positioning is the modeling of widely separated atomic clocks with sub-ns precision. The precise monitoring of the relative timing phases between widely separated atomic clocks forms the metrological basis of a recently proposed approach to detect topological dark matter of a type that affects fundamental constants. Relative clock time can be updated as often as every second using the current global network of geodetic GPS stations that record data at that rate, though many more geodetic GPS stations record data every 30 seconds. Thus GPS could be used as the world’s largest dark matter detector, potentially sensitive to dark matter structures sweeping through the entire system >100 seconds, corresponding to speeds <500 km s¬-1 relative to the solar system. Here it is shown that relative timing phases can be determined to ~0.2 ns between the global network of atomic clocks at many geodetic GPS stations on the Earth’s surface separated as far as ~12,000 km, plus those aboard the 30 GPS satellites separated as far as ~50,000 km. Available atomic clock types include caesium (Cs), rubidium (Rb), and (on the ground) hydrogen maser (Hm). Achieving sub-ns relative timing precision requires (1) dual-frequency carrier phase data measured at the few mm level, (2) rigorous modeling of many aspects of the Earth system and GPS satellite dynamics, and (3) stochastic estimation of biases in the system. For example, solar radiation pressure from momentum exchange with photons hitting the satellites perturbs orbits at the few-meter level. Imperfect modeling, such as knowledge of the satellite attitude, requires us to estimate orbit acceleration biases as they slowly vary in time. For mm-level positioning applications, clock phases are considered to be unknown biases to be estimated as a white noise process, that is, estimated independently at every data epoch without constraint. By virtue of the common view of satellites simultaneously by multiple ground stations, relative clock time can be determined between all clocks in the entire satellite-ground system by estimating all biases in a global inversion. Since the timing phase between Hm clocks can be accurately extrapolated forward in time, they set the standard by which upper limits can be set on the precision of timing at any specific instant. As a feasibility study, a custom analysis of original raw GPS phase data was designed using the GIPSY OASIS II software (from NASA JPL), processing data from ~40 ground stations of various atomic clock type. An analysis of data from GPS stations that are positioned at the few-millimeter level every day indicates that Hm clock time is determined at to ~0.2 ns. Since the smoothness of Hm clocks is not assumed anywhere in the modeling, and that station clock type has no influence on positioning precision, one can infer that timing at the 0.2 ns level is also the case for less predictable atomic clocks such as Rb and Cs, thus providing a window into possibly different coupling of dark matter with different clock types.