- Time from NPL
The Time from NPL is a radio signal broadcast from the Anthorn radio station near Anthorn, Cumbria which serves as the United Kingdom's national time reference. The time signal is derived from three atomic clocks installed at the transmitter site, and is based on time standards maintained by the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington. The service is provided by Babcock International (with which former providers VT Communications merged) under licence from the NPL and is funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.
The signal, also known as the MSF signal (and formerly the Rugby clock) is broadcast at a highly-accurate frequency of 60 kHz and can be received throughout the UK, and in much of northern and western Europe. The signal’s carrier frequency is maintained at 60 kHz to within 2 parts in 1012, controlled by caesium atomic clocks at the radio station.
A radio station at Rugby was first operated by the Post Office from 1926, with the call-sign GBR. From 19 December 1927, it broadcast a 15.8 kHz time signal from the Royal Observatory which could be received worldwide. It consisted of 306 pulses in the five minutes up to and including 10:00 and 18:00 GMT, with a longer pulse at the start of each minute. Frequency-shift keying was added in 1967, making the signal harder to use as a frequency reference. Eventually, time signals from GBR were terminated in November 1986 and it is no longer used as a frequency reference.
The MSF signals started in 1950, following the transmission pattern described below. They were originally intended to provide frequency references at 2.5, 5 and 10 MHz, originally only occasionally during the day. At first, there were announcements every fifteen minutes, beginning with the Morse code representation of "MSF MSF MSF", followed by speech "This is MSF, Rugby, England, transmitting ...". From May 1953, the signal was broadcast 24 hours a day, but with regular five-minute stoppages to allow the reception of other signals. The 60 kHz signal finally became an uninterrupted 24-hour service in 1966, and the frequency references were discontinued in February 1988.
On 27 February 2007 the NPL started tests of the new time signal transmissions from Anthorn, latitude 54° 55' N, and longitude 3° 15' W. This station has the callsign GBZ and is operated by VT Communications.
The formal inauguration of the relocated facility took place on 1 April 2007, when the name of the service became "The Time from NPL" and the signal from Rugby was permanently switched off. The change in location and consequent change in signal strength can make some equipment designed to use the MSF signal fail to continue doing so. This is found more in domestic equipment not designed for optimum sensitivity and positioned haphazardly; only the few people aware of the Rugby switchoff will have made the connection between failure of MSF devices and the switchoff.
The 'MSF signal' and the 'Rugby clock'
From the time signal's inauguration in 1950 until 1 April 2007 it was transmitted from Rugby radio station near Rugby, Warwickshire. The transmitter's original location meant that the clock was referred to as "the Rugby clock". Following its relocation, the NPL now formally calls the signal "The Time from NPL".
The Rugby transmitter's callsign was MSF, where 'M' is one of the ITU prefixes allocated to the United Kingdom, and the letters 'SF' were allocated for no documented reason. This resulted in the common terminology "the MSF signal", which is still used by the NPL. The official history of the service says that "Rugby was given an additional commitment for the transmission of reference Modulated Standard Frequencies", but no actual explanation is given for the call sign "MSF".
Transmission and reception
The transmitted signal has an effective radiated power of 17 kW, on a frequency of 60 kHz to within 2 parts in 1012. The signal strength is greater than 10 mV/m at 100 km; it is greater than 100 μV/m at 1000 km from the transmitter, and thus can be received at not less than this strength throughout the UK. The signal can also be received, and is widely used, in northern and western Europe.
While at Rugby the transmitter generated 60 kW of radio frequency power (using 70 kW of mains power). The 180m-high T-aerial antenna was 500m across at its top. The vertical part of the antenna radiated the signal, so that the received strength was similar in all directions (it was approximately omnidirectional).
In addition to professional uses where accurate time is required, radio-controlled clocks with both digital and analog displays using the NPL signal are widely used (similar clocks are available in other regions with standard time transmissions). As far as users are concerned they are simply clocks with the same features and settings as others, but always display the right time, and correct themselves for summer time.
The MSF transmitter is switched off for brief intervals (on-off keying) near the beginning of each second to encode the current time and date. The rise and fall times of the 60 kHz carrier are determined by the combination of antenna and transmitter.
Each UTC second begins with 100 ms of 'off', preceded by at least 500 ms of carrier. The second marker is transmitted with an accuracy better than ±1 ms relative to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is itself always within ±1 second of Greenwich Mean (solar) Time (GMT).
The first second of the minute, denoted second 00, begins with a period of 500 ms with the carrier off, to serve as a minute marker. The other 59 (or, exceptionally, 60 or 58) seconds of the minute always begin with at least 100 ms 'off', followed by two data bits of 100 ms each, and end with at least 700 ms of carrier. Bit A is transmitted from 100 to 200 ms after the second, and bit B is transmitted from 200 to 300 ms. Carrier on represents a bit value of 0 and carrier off a value of 1.
If each second is considered as ten 100 ms pieces, the minute marker is transmitted as
1111100000, while all other seconds are transmitted as
Although two data bits are transmitted per second, the time code has the property that only one of them is variable; non-zero B bits are only transmitted when the corresponding A bit has a fixed value.
Seconds 01–16 carry information for the current minute about the difference (DUT1) between atomic and astronomical time, and the remaining seconds convey the time and date code. The time and date code information begins 43 seconds before the corresponding minute marker (second 17 of the previous minute, in the absence of leap seconds), and is always given in terms of UK civil time, which is UTC in winter and UTC+1h when Summer Time is in effect.
MSF time code
Shaded bits are fixed
Bit A B Meaning Bit A B Meaning Bit A B Meaning 00 1 1 Minute mark 20 10 0 Year (00–99) 40 10 0 Hour (00–23) 01 0 +0.1 DUT1 (0.1–0.8)
Unary encoding, bit
set if DUT1 ≥ Weight
21 8 0 41 8 0 02 0 +0.2 22 4 0 42 4 0 03 0 +0.3 23 2 0 43 2 0 04 0 +0.4 24 1 0 44 1 0 05 0 +0.5 25 10 0 Month (01–12) 45 40 0 Minute (00–59) 06 0 +0.6 26 8 0 46 20 0 07 0 +0.7 27 4 0 47 10 0 08 0 +0.8 28 2 0 48 8 0 09 0 −0.1 DUT1 (−0.1–−0.8)
Unary encoding, bit
set if DUT1 ≤ Weight
29 1 0 49 4 0 10 0 −0.2 30 20 0 Day of month (01–31) 50 2 0 11 0 −0.3 31 10 0 51 1 0 12 0 −0.4 32 8 0 52 0 0 End of minute marker 01111110 13 0 −0.5 33 4 0 53 1 STW Summer time warning. 14 0 −0.6 34 2 0 54 1 P1 Year parity (17A–24A, odd parity) 15 0 −0.7 35 1 0 55 1 P2 Day parity (25A–35A, odd parity) 16 0 −0.8 36 4 0 Day of week
56 1 P3 DOW parity (36A–38A, odd parity) 17 80 0 Year (00–99) 37 2 0 57 1 P4 Time parity (39A–51A, odd parity) 18 40 0 38 1 0 58 1 ST Summer time in effect. 19 20 0 39 20 0 Hour (00–23) 59 0 0 Unused, always 0.
Consecutive bits from 01B–08B are set to 1 to indicate positive DUT1 values from +0.1s to +0.8s. For example, bit 05B is set if DUT1 ≥ 0.5 s. Consecutive bits from 09B–16B are set to 1 to indicate negative DUT1 values from −0.1s to −0.8s. For example, bit 11B is set if DUT1 ≤ −0.3 s.
In case of a leap second, a zero bit is inserted between seconds 16 and 17. In case of a negative leap second, second 16 will be deleted. Since negative leap seconds can only occur when DUT1 is positive, bits 9B through 16B will be zero.
Bits 17A–51A encode the time of the following minute in binary-coded decimal, most significant bit first. Beginning with bit 17A comes 4 bits of tens of years, 4 bits of years, 1 bit of tens of months, 4 bits of months, 2 bits of tens of days, 4 bits of days, 3 bits of day of week (0=Sunday), 2 bits of tens of hours, 4 bits of hours, 3 bits of tens of minutes, and 4 bits of minutes.
Bits 54B–57B provide odd parity over the time code. The 4 parity bits cover years (8 bits), months and days (11 bits), day of week (3 bits), and time of day (13 bits) respectively.
Bit 58B indicates the broadcast time is summer time. Bit 53B gives warning that the summer time bit is about to change. It is set for 61 consecutive minutes, starting 1 hour 7 seconds before the change, and ending 7 seconds before the change, 5 seconds before the first changed bit 58B, which is itself transmitted 2 seconds (1.7–1.8 seconds, to be more precise) before moment of the time change.
In addition to the 500 ms carrier-off minute marker, bits 53A–58A are all set permanently at '1', and are bracketed by bits 52A and 59A at '0'. This sequence
01111110never appears elsewhere in bit A, so it uniquely identifies the following second 00 minute marker.
Shortcomings of the current signal format
MSF does not broadcast any explicit advance warning of upcoming leap seconds which occur less than once a year on average. The only indication is a change in the number of padding bits before the time code during the minute before the leap second. Therefore, unless a leap-second announcement is manually entered into a receiver in advance, it may take some time until an autonomous MSF receiver regains synchronization with UTC after a leap second (especially if the reception is not robust at the time of the leap second).
The time signal only provides 1 hour warning of summer-time changes.
- Greenwich Time Signal
- Coordinated Universal Time
- Radio clock
- WWVB, time signal radio station, also on 60 kHz, from Fort Collins, Colorado
- DCF77, 77.5 kHz time signal radio station from Mainflingen, Germany
- ^ a b c d e "NPL Time Metrology". National Physical Laboratory, UK. http://www.npl.co.uk/time/msf/. Retrieved 6 April 2007.
- ^ "MSF The Time from NPL". National Physical Laboratory, UK. http://www.clockco.co.uk/documents/msf.pdf. Retrieved 6 April 2007.
- ^ a b c d e f "NPL T&F: FAQs". National Physical Laboratory, UK. http://www.npl.co.uk/server.php?show=nav.891. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
- ^ Kelly Eve (28 February 2007). "Time Begins in Anthorn Village". News & Star (Carlisle). Archived from the original on 10 August 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070810033940/http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/viewarticle.aspx?id=471174. Retrieved 28 February 2007.
- ^ Pallab Ghosh (10 May 2006). "Times changing for radio signal". BBC News Online. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4756593.stm. Retrieved 28 March 2007.
- ^ "Time change marks end of an era". BBC News Online. 25 March 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6483969.stm. Retrieved 28 March 2007.
- ^ a b c "Time Has Moved". National Physical Laboratory, UK. http://www.npl.co.uk/time/msf/change.html. Retrieved 6 April 2007.
- ^ "ARM+FPGA based Rugby clock". Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge. http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/teaching/2005/ECADArch/lab6.html. Retrieved 6 April 2007.
- ^ "MSF 60 kHz: References for electronics projects". National Physical Laboratory, UK. http://www.npl.co.uk/time/msf/electronic_projects.html. Retrieved 6 April 2007.
- ^ The Official History of Rugby Radio Station
- ^ a b c "MSF 60 kHz Time and Date Code". NPL Time and Frequency Services. National Physical Laboratory. http://www.npl.co.uk/upload/pdf/MSF_Time_Date_Code.pdf. Retrieved 26 May 2008.
- The Official History of Rugby Radio Station
- A History of Rugby Radio, M Johnston, 1976 History from 1910.
- "SOMETHING IN THE AIR - A GUIDE TO THE RUGBY RADIO MASTS", by Peter Chambers, out of print
- Press release about MSF relocation to Anthorn
- National Physical Laboratory – public information leaflet about relocation
Time signal stations Longwave Shortwave Satellite Defunct Time Major concepts
Measurement and standardsChronometry · UTC · UT · TAI · Second · Minute · Hour · Sidereal time · Solar time · Time zone
Clock · Astrarium · History of timekeeping devices · Horology · Marine chronometer · Sundial · Water clock
Calendar · Day · Week · Month · Year · Tropical year · Gregorian · Islamic · Julian
Intercalation · Leap second · Leap year
Chronology Religion and mythology Philosophy Physical sciences Biology Psychology Sociology and anthropology Economics Related topics Time measurement and standards Major subjects International standards Obsolete standards Time in physics Horology Calendar Archaeology & geology Astronomical chronology Units of time Related topics
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Time signal — These automatic signal clocks were synchronized by telegraphy in 1905 before the widespread use of radio A time signal is a visible, audible, mechanical, or electronic signal used as a reference to determine the time of day. Contents 1 Audible… … Wikipedia
Time dilation — This article is about a concept in physics. For the concept in sociology, see time displacement. In the theory of relativity, time dilation is an observed difference of elapsed time between two events as measured by observers either moving… … Wikipedia
Time travel — This article details time travel itself. For other uses, see Time Traveler. Time travel is the concept of moving between different moments in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space, either sending objects (or in… … Wikipedia
Time in the United Kingdom — The United Kingdom uses Greenwich Mean Time (UTC) and British Summer Time (UTC+1).The UK used Local Mean Time until railway timetabling gradually established the two standards of Greenwich Mean Time and Dublin Mean Time (). These were legally… … Wikipedia
Greenwich Time Signal — The Greenwich Time Signal (GTS), popularly known as the pips, is a series of six short tones broadcast by many BBC radio stations at the end of each hour to mark the precise start of the following hour. First introduced in 1924, continued use of… … Wikipedia
OMA (time signal) — OMA was the callsign of a Czech time signal station. The station was operated by the Astronomical Institute of Prague and the transmitters were located at RKS Liblice 1. The station transmitted in the LF band on 50 kHz with a power of 7 kW and in … Wikipedia
International Atomic Time — ( [http://www.bipm.org/en/scientific/tai/tai.html TAI] , from the French name Temps Atomique International) is a high precision atomic time standard that tracks proper time on Earth s geoid. It is the principal realisation of Terrestrial Time,… … Wikipedia
Greenwich Mean Time — (GMT) is a term originally referring to mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. It is now often used to refer to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) when this is viewed as a time zone, although strictly UTC is an atomic time… … Wikipedia
4.50 from Paddington — … Wikipedia
A Gift from a Flower to a Garden — Infobox Album Name = A Gift from a Flower to a Garden Type = studio Artist = Donovan Released = December 1967 (USA) April 16, 1968 (UK) Recorded = Genre = Folk rock, psychedelic rock Length = 59:24 Label = Pye NPL20000 (monaural) / NSPL 20000… … Wikipedia