The second is the duration of 9 192 631 770 cycles of the radiation associated with a specific transition of the cesium 133 atom. The second is realized by turning an oscillator to the resonance frequency associate with the above definition. Just before entering a microwave cavity, cesium atoms are forced into the right atomic state by a laser beam. A detector registers a signal only when the oscillator delivers just the right frequency to the microwave cavity causing transitions and changing the state of the atoms. This change in state is sensed at the detector.
The number of periods or cycles per second is called frequency. The SI unit for frequency is the hertz (Hz). One hertz is the same as one cycle per second. Standard frequencies and the correct time are broadcast by radio stations WWV and WWVB in Colorado, and WWVH in Hawaii. NIST delivers digital timing signals by telephone and through the internet.
Official U.S. Government time is provided by NIST and USNO. NIST also offers an Internet Time Service (ITS) and an Automated Computer Time Service (ACTS) that allow setting of computer and other clocks through the Internet or over standard commercial telephone lines. Free software for using these services on several types of popular computers can be downloaded there. Information about these services can be found on the Time and Frequency Division Web site.
League of SI Superheroes – Professor Second
This comic book-style video animation series has been developed to help middle school students learn about the 7 SI base measurement units. By reading the vibrations of her laser-cooled cesium atoms, Professor Second can synchronize any frequency and correct any clock. A second is the time it takes an excited cesium atom to vibrate 9,192,631,770 times.
Follow the historic journey through of the evolution of time measurement. PDF (Click link to download the attached file)
Visualize the SI units of Time
If you want to know where you are, you need a reliable clock. Dive into these Smithsonian resources to discover more about the connection between time and place.
Check out the University of Wisconsin's exhibit. Learn cool things about the accuracy of clocks, including a historical Timeline (pun intended)!
NIST and the U.S. Naval Observatory jointly operate a website that provides the Official U.S. Time. Readings from the clocks of these two agencies contribute to world time, called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Learn more...
How to get the time using a telephone, computer or radio signals? What is a leap second? What are the daylight saving time rules? Visit the Time and Frequency Division FAQs for more information.