South African Journal of Geomatics

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Analysis of the performance of hydrogen maser clocks at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory

C Munghemezulu, L Combrinck, O.J. Botai, J Quick


Hydrogen maser frequency standards are commonly utilised in various space geodetic techniques such as Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) as local reference clocks. The Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory in South Africa is currently operating two maser frequency standards i.e., an EFOS28 and an iMaser72 for the 15 m and 26 m VLBI radio telescopes respectively, an older EFOS6 is a standby spare. This study utilised the least-squares method to derive clock parameters, which indicates the performance levels of the masers by making use of the offset measurements obtained between hydrogen maser clock 1 PPS and GNSS 1 PPS for a period of 35 days. The masers were also compared using a frequency comparator (VCH-314) for a time period of 100 s. The results indicate that the performances of both Masers are relatively similar to each other, with short-term and long-term results indicating good agreement. The iMaser72 has a better standard error of 0.0039 μs compared to the standard error of 0.0059 μs for the EFOS28 maser clock. In general, both masers performed at an expected level required for radio astronomy and geodetic VLBI applications. The method used in this study proved to be useful in managing local hydrogen maser clocks to ensure accurate VLBI observations are obtained.
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