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Colloquium – James Camparo – Basic Physics and Atomic Timekeeping in Space

April 10 @ 3:45 pm - 5:00 pm


Speaker: Dr. James Camparo (The Aerospace Corp.)

Title: Basic Physics and Atomic Timekeeping in Space






In 1945, during the Richtmeyer Memorial Lecture at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society in New York City, Nobel Laureate I. I. Rabi made the first suggestion for a clock based on atoms. A device where the “tick-rate” of the clock is tied to the fundamental stability of atomic structure. Twelve years later, the first atomic clock was realized, and in 1975 the first atomic clock was launched into space. In the nearly half-century since that first space flight, atomic clocks for space have become more precise, more resilient, and as a result have proliferated into diverse space systems.

In this presentation, I will provide a very brief history of the atomic clock, focusing specifically on atomic clocks for space.  I will then discuss some types of space mission that require precise timekeeping, for example satellite communications missions and global navigation satellite system missions, and why atomic clocks are generally the best choice for such missions. In particular, resynchronization updates from the ground can be extended to days and weeks, and atomic clocks are inherently insensitive to the space-radiation environment. This discussion will motivate the second part of my talk, where I consider the future of atomic timekeeping in space and the basic physics researchers will need to explore in order to realize that future, as examples: the physics of low-temperature rf-discharges, collisional perturbations on atoms, subtleties of the ac-Stark shift, and atom dynamics under conditions that violate the sudden, adiabatic, and quasi-static approximations of textbook quantum mechanics.



Dr. Camparo joined The Aerospace Corporation’s Atomic Physics section in January 1981 immediately after obtaining his doctorate from Columbia University, where he studied “laser snow” (i.e., photochemically produced cesium hydride) in Prof. Happer’s laboratory. He is currently a Fellow in Aerospace’s Physical Sciences Laboratories, where his interests include research and development of the laser-pumped atomic clock, the study of atomic timekeeping onboard spacecraft, and experiments investigating the stochastic-field/atom interaction.  Dr. Camparo is the author or co-author of over 100 scientific papers (peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings), and he holds eight patents in the area of atomic clocks.  Dr. Camparo has been a part-time faculty member at California State University Dominguez Hills, lecturing in both the Physics and Chemistry departments, and an adjunct professor of physics at Whittier College.  Dr. Camparo was captain of the Columbia Fencing Team (1977) and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do.  In his spare time, Dr. Camparo enjoys the theater, history, and spending time with his wife and the families of his two grown daughters.


Host: Thejesh Bandi


April 10
3:45 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Category:


227 Gallalee Hall
514 University Blvd.
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 United States
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Dona O’Neal
(205) 348-5050
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