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Geoffw

Thoughts on Using a Laser Pointer

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Grandchildren are going to spend some time with us in a few month's time.  They are city children but are now getting old enough to start finding their way around the night sky.  I want to spend some time with them out in the garden showing them around the night sky.  We live in rural West Wales and not under the flight path of  any international airport, and I was thinking of getting a laser pointer to help me gently introduce them to some of the naked eye sights.   

What do I need to know about using a laser pointer, and can anyone recommend to me something usable and reasonably priced?

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Mixing children with laser pointers? What could possibly go wrong?

My lot quite enjoy finding the patterns in the stars. Middle child still refers to Orion as O’Briain.......

Watching a 7 year old get his head around Amdromeda being made up of stars, is an absolute joy.

Don’t forget that they have short attention spans.

Paul

 

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5 minutes ago, Paul73 said:

Mixing children with laser pointers? What could possibly go wrong?

My lot quite enjoy finding the patterns in the stars. Middle child still refers to Orion as O’Briain.......

Watching a 7 year old get his head around Amdromeda being made up of stars, is an absolute joy.

Don’t forget that they have short attention spans.

Paul

 

Certainly I'm aware it is a dangerous device, and the safety of the children would be paramount.  

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Posted (edited)

You’ll be fine. Obviously, make sure it stays in your hands and keep it switched off until above head height and pointing at the sky. Explain that it is dangerous.

All obvious, I know, but you did ask. 🙂

I use an inexpensive Bluesky Stealth pointer with an output of <5mW (green light, which is considered safest).

Edited by Floater
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Green light is really the only color that shows up well.  I've tried red and violet without luck.  Don't let the kids talk you into letting them use it.  They'll just play with it like a light saber and shine it in somebody's eyes by accident.  Even though they say 1mW or 5mW, they are often much more powerful if made generically in China.  That, and they may be missing their IR filter which is what can cause real damage to the retina (basically cooking it).

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4 hours ago, Geoffw said:

Grandchildren are going to spend some time with us in a few month's time.  They are city children but are now getting old enough to start finding their way around the night sky.  I want to spend some time with them out in the garden showing them around the night sky.  We live in rural West Wales and not under the flight path of  any international airport, and I was thinking of getting a laser pointer to help me gently introduce them to some of the naked eye sights.   

What do I need to know about using a laser pointer, and can anyone recommend to me something usable and reasonably priced?

 

Geoff

First of all welcome from Land Down Under

Where I am, you have to be a member of a registered astronomy club, to own and operate a laser pointer

Not sure about where you are

Where we are, laser pointers now come under the Offensive Weapons Act, same as fire arms do, and only 1mw output

I use one for pointing out deep sky objects when do presentation in primary schools and scout/guide groups

There is also a disclaimer, with respect to laser pointers on our club website,

 

http://sas.org.au/

About SAS

 

John

 

 

 

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Just to add....

Here in Victoria, Australia you need a police permit to have and use a laser pointer.

It cost me $ 180 to renew for three years.

As you know, they can be dangerous, take care.

 

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I have a green one that I use on occasion to point things out to passers-by.

I just check there are no planes in the bit of the sky I am going to point it (but it sounds like this will not be a problem for you).

Yes, they can be dangerous, but so can a kitchen-knife ... so you teach them to handle it responsibly.

As Gordon said above, all the obvious things really, just common sense.

Teaching (at least vaguely) interested kids a bit is great. Their excitement can be infectious and can help reignite my own sometimes-flagging excitement in the heavens.

 

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It would be smart to tell the local police, what you are planning and what they think about it...

Better safe then getting fined

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1 to 5 mW (green) is plenty to use under the night sky. As stated above: check with police, as it could be forbidden where you live. 

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I'm inclined to consider the possibility that the laser pointer will steal the show. "Forget about stars, show us the lightsabre again!"

:icon_rolleyes:

Edited by iPeace
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I just done a public outreach event and the other guy helping me brought his green laser pointer. It was totally perfect for pointing out constellations and m42.  It helped to show around 10-20 people simulateously the objects who all then queued to see it in the eyepiece.

100% go for it. 

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9 hours ago, Geoffw said:

Grandchildren are going to spend some time with us in a few month's time.  They are city children but are now getting old enough to start finding their way around the night sky.  I want to spend some time with them out in the garden showing them around the night sky.  We live in rural West Wales and not under the flight path of  any international airport, and I was thinking of getting a laser pointer to help me gently introduce them to some of the naked eye sights.   

What do I need to know about using a laser pointer, and can anyone recommend to me something usable and reasonably priced?

I would deprecate the use of laser pointers to point at the night sky in no uncertain terms. These devices seem to be popular in some astronomical circles, particularly in the US, but among aviation authorities in the UK, these devices in the hands of youths and irresponsible persons in urban areas of the UK are regarded as a complete menace. Pilots of aircraft have been dazzled and some think there is a risk of a fatal crash sooner or later.

While your proposed activity should be entirely safe, one does not want to propagate the idea that it is okay to point laser devices at the sky elsewhere, or that amateur astronomers  have anything to do with hooligans who try to dazzle police helicopters.

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If you are in Pembrokeshire I would question the need! :D

Things should be clear enough to point out without the hassle or worry of introducing a pointer.

I have just finished regular sessions in school, in a fairly badly light polluted town and we managed fine.

Youngest was a 5 year old.

With eyesight better than mine, they had no problem identify the asterisms and then constellations and finding individual objects within, such as M42.

But above all, have fun!

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I have one mounted on my binos and main setup, the main one doesnt get used much but since having one on the binos its made using them so much easier and faster to find targets. also when helping others find their way around the sky its made the job a breeze. obviously be aware of aircraft if you're near an airport or an area where they fly low. 

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Personally I don't like them and the use of them encourages the instant gratification of being entertained. The looking for the pattern in the sky is the experience to share with them. Lee back on the ground and who sees a satellite or shooting star first.

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Well there you go, @Geoffw. Not surprisingly, different strokes for different folks.

I have nothing to add to my original reply except to point(!) out that anything less than 5mW is lawful in the UK. Lots of info online.

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I have been using these laser 303's, like some eye piece types these are rebranded with many different logos but once you see one you've seen them all, one of mine is pictured below mounted to my st80 they have a twist on protective cap over the laser element with a notched lens so the laser can also project patterns of dots wich I'm sure the children would find interesting they are about 1" in diameter and 7"s long aluminum hand hold well work reasonably well in colder temps and are cheap as chips I have several and they've  been doing fine for about 8 months without issues.

Like others have said the power of these lasers from China can vary but online testing of the 303 types typically runs as high as 15mw, though they are labeled as 5mw so I would proceed with caution letting younger folk handle this laser type or any other laser unless specifically tested and verified to be 5mw or less and none of these are tested.  For the price these 303's are hard to beat and reliable, I bought a few to sprinkle on my telescopes and see how they stick and discovered I should have done this a long time ago...

                  Best of Luck 🙂

                           Freddie...

 

 

20181201_220019.jpg

Edited by SIDO

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From personal experience I would not use a laser pointer.  The use of laser pointers in the UK is not illegal but you will find that your local police will just assume that you are a moron and will give you a hard time if you are seen.  And given that the majority of the Great English Public do seem to be pretty moronic these days, who can blame them?

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Some of our members use them during public events, but we request that our guests refrain. We educate our members on their safe usage, but we have no idea what the general public's level of understanding is and, as has already been stated, we can't guarantee they will be kept out of the hands of irresponsible children. We DO NOT  use them for pointers/alignment devices for our telescopes. We only use them momentarily to highlight objects or constellations.

Before using, be sure to consult your local, state and federal laws regarding public usage of lasers as some can be quite dangerous.

I personally use a Z-bolt Emerald Galaxy laser. They make a couple different versions. They are actually on sale right now for 40% off on their website through Sunday, if you can get them in your country. Not inexpensive, but extremely well built and durable. All their green lasers are individually tested to ensure they are below 5mW, which is the legal limit in the US.

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4 hours ago, Cosmic Geoff said:

I would deprecate the use of laser pointers to point at the night sky in no uncertain terms. These devices seem to be popular in some astronomical circles, particularly in the US, but among aviation authorities in the UK, these devices in the hands of youths and irresponsible persons in urban areas of the UK are regarded as a complete menace. Pilots of aircraft have been dazzled and some think there is a risk of a fatal crash sooner or later.

While your proposed activity should be entirely safe, one does not want to propagate the idea that it is okay to point laser devices at the sky elsewhere, or that amateur astronomers  have anything to do with hooligans who try to dazzle police helicopters.

Here in the US, the same hooligan types who used to shine laser pointers at planes and helicopters have moved on to flying drones near airports to get near miss videos to post online.  I think most pilots would prefer to be dazzled by a laser pointer rather than be hit by drone.

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3 hours ago, Hallingskies said:

From personal experience I would not use a laser pointer.  The use of laser pointers in the UK is not illegal but you will find that your local police will just assume that you are a moron and will give you a hard time if you are seen.  And given that the majority of the Great English Public do seem to be pretty moronic these days, who can blame them?

More than about 10 feet off axis, and it is nearly impossible to see the laser line unless there's lots of crud floating in the air.  Perhaps if you shine it on an object or into someone's window, that might draw attention.  Basically, the police would practically have to be in your yard to see the light.  My backyard is surrounded by trees and bushes, limiting my views, but also limiting anyone else seeing what I'm doing.

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2 hours ago, Buzzard75 said:

We DO NOT  use them for pointers/alignment devices for our telescopes.

I totally get that at star parties.  My laser sights are mounted low enough on my telescopes that a kid could look right into one without much effort.  It's a completely different situation when I'm alone in my backyard, though.  What with my back neck and back, the laser sights have allowed me to continue getting my scope on target in a timely manner.

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1 hour ago, Louis D said:

I think most pilots would prefer to be dazzled by a laser pointer rather than be hit by drone.

We should ask the pilots. Both types of incident have the potential to put the pilot out of action for an extended period or cause critical damage to the plane.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/23/ba-pilots-eye-damaged-by-military-laser-shone-into-cockpit-at-heathrow

There are many reports of a similar nature.

Edited by Cosmic Geoff

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1 hour ago, Cosmic Geoff said:

We should ask the pilots. Both types of incident have the potential to put the pilot out of action for an extended period or cause critical damage to the plane.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/23/ba-pilots-eye-damaged-by-military-laser-shone-into-cockpit-at-heathrow

There are many reports of a similar nature.

My point was that I haven't heard much about lasing pilots in the last year or two compared to drone grazing incidents.  I'm sure pilots would prefer neither.

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