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Royal Greenwich Observatory

Volume 93: debated on Friday 7 March 1986

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what evidence he has received about the condition of the clocks at the Royal Greenwich Observatory on which the Greenwich time signal is based; what is the estimated remaining life of the clocks; and what is the likely cost of their replacement.

It is estimated that the six atomic clocks at the Royal Greenwich Observatory will fail within the next three years. To replace them would cost about £40,000 per clock, and to maintain the independent time scale would cost about £100,000 per annum in manpower and equipment. The need for an independent atomic time service is greatly reduced by the availability of the international atomic time scale by satellite, and the observatory proposes to obtain reference to precise time by this means in future. This will involve about £40,000 in capital equipment, and about £20,000 per annum running costs.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what are his plans for the continuation of the Greenwich time signal in the event of the failure of the clocks at the Royal Greenwich Observatory on which it depends.

The need for the Royal Greenwich Observatory to maintain an independent atomic time scale has been greatly reduced by the availability of the international atomic time scale (UTC) via the Navstar—global positioning system (GPS) satellite service. When the clocks fail, the Observatory will continue to assist in the provision of the familiar "six-pips" Greenwich time signal by reference to the UTC.