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Title: Nanosecond-level time synchronization of autonomous radio detector stations for extensive air showers

To exploit the full potential of radio measurements of cosmic-ray air showers at MHz frequencies, a detector timing synchronization within 1 ns is needed. Large distributed radio detector arrays such as the Auger Engineering Radio Array (AERA) rely on timing via the Global Positioning System (GPS) for the synchronization of individual detector station clocks. Unfortunately, GPS timing is expected to have an accuracy no better than about 5 ns. In practice, in particular in AERA, the GPS clocks exhibit drifts on the order of tens of ns. We developed a technique to correct for the GPS drifts, and an independent method used for cross-checks that indeed we reach nanosecond-scale timing accuracy by this correction. First, we operate a “beacon transmitter” which emits defined sine waves detected by AERA antennas recorded within the physics data. The relative phasing of these sine waves can be used to correct for GPS clock drifts. In addition to this, we observe radio pulses emitted by commercial airplanes, the position of which we determine in real time from Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcasts intercepted with a software-defined radio. From the known source location and the measured arrival times of the pulses we determine relative timing offsets betweenmore » radio detector stations. We demonstrate with a combined analysis that the two methods give a consistent timing calibration with an accuracy of 2 ns or better. Consequently, the beacon method alone can be used in the future to continuously determine and correct for GPS clock drifts in each individual event measured by AERA.« less
  1. Univ. Siegen, Siegen (Germany). et al.
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 1748-0221; arXiv eprint number arXiv:1512.02216
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Instrumentation
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 11; Journal ID: ISSN 1748-0221
Institute of Physics (IOP)
Research Org:
Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), High Energy Physics (HEP) (SC-25)
Contributing Orgs:
Pierre Auger Collaboration
Country of Publication:
United States
47 OTHER INSTRUMENTATION; 79 ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS Pierre Auger Observatory; AERA; cosmic rays; extensive air showers; radio emission; ADS-B; time synchronization