The scientific community that has benefited most from the improvements in laser light and laser pointer technology is the field of astronomy. It seems that there are no more perfect applications for high power laser pointers than for research in the physically based world of astronomy. But how practical is the use of astronomical laser pointers? Does it offer a legitimate scientific value or is it just a tool to make research “cool” or “hip”? There have been many discussions about the use of lasers for astronomical research in observatories around the world.
If you are a laser hobbyist or an astronomy enthusiast, you may be familiar with practical laser pointer features that are ideal for night study. But what is it that a person should look for to determine if a particular laser pointer is ideal for their astronomical needs? There are a few things to consider before using a laser in astronomy research, points that anyone considering a portable astronomy laser should consider.
First, where will you use the lasers? If you are in an area that is relatively populous, you may have to fight light pollution to see the constellations of the night sky. In this case you will need a high-performance pointer so that you can actually see the laser beam clearly despite the adverse circumstances. We can take this a step further, if you know that you need a slightly higher power for your laser, then you might consider using a 532nm green laser pointer. Green astronomy lasers are the most commonly used laser pointers because the green laser beam appears so bright to the observer. The green beam is the brightest light frequency in the visible spectrum, i.e. there is no laser beam that can appear brighter. Accordingly, green lasers are the most popular color wavelength for this type of application.
Green lasers have a long history of use in space agencies such as NASA and are becoming increasingly popular with astronomers around the world. The current problem is that many scientific professionals are not sufficiently trained in the use of lasers for astronomical applications, leading to potential disasters. Now, if someone uses a 5mw green astronomy laser, there is very little risk of worry. The output power of the beams is relatively low and this ensures safety in the environment.
If a high power unit is to be used, there is a little more room for concern and precaution. The higher the output power of the laser beam, the brighter and stronger the beam will appear. This may be ideal for nocturnal astronomy research, but if the beam is scattered or used improperly, it can be a disaster for the astronomy enthusiast or simply for people present. There have been horror stories about misfired astronomy laser pointers that have led to major research funding being cut.
So if pointers are your strength, make sure you know what you are doing before you activate the powerful lasers. The use of a straight line of green laser light is unsurpassed by any other astronomy tool, and when a laser is attached to a telescope, astronomy becomes all the more exciting and instructive. Some of the world’s largest and most powerful observatories attach simple astronomical laser pointers to the body of their rifle scope, providing uniform and solid beam power. Lasers open the door and people’s eyes to the beauty of the universe and our Milky Way galaxy, be sure they shine and enjoy with care.