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Thoughts on Using a Laser Pointer


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2 minutes ago, tooth_dr said:

I did google but thanks. I just didn’t understand James F saying a class 3b is ‘totally inappropriate’ but in fact astro lasers lie within the class 3b range?  Obviously I understand you don’t want to be using 499mw lasers ?

Yes, I have to admit that I had more "personal" use in mind at the time, from a back garden or at an informal gathering.  From a UK perspective, in instances where the likes of class 3B lasers are used for astronomy, I'd probably also expect the operators to have done things like risk assessments, ticked all the necessary health and safety boxes, carry suitable insurance and so on.

James

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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 p

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 a

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 di

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6 minutes ago, JamesF said:

Firstly because any member of the local constabulary who happened to come across an individual using a 300mW laser as a pointer, especially outdoors, is probably going to have a highly unpleasant sense of humour failure.  That would be enough for me in itself.

A 300mW class 3B laser probably has a a fair range (perhaps 150m, maybe 200m, depending on the quality of the laser?) over which it could cause permanent eye damage, which makes accidental operation potentially harmful over a larger area than one might reasonably expect to control.

The actual range of such a laser might well be several kilometres depending on the beam divergence, which means you may never be too sure what's on the other end.  Even an accidental flash into an aircraft cockpit carries the potential for a prison sentence (in the UK).  At that kind of distance I reckon it would actually be quite hard to deliberately light up the cockpit of any aircraft, but it would be much easier not to go there in the first place.

A lot of the time, all you need for pointing out objects in the sky is a "longer finger", and a 1mW pointer will do that quite readily.  There may be cases where a more powerful laser is required, but anyone doing so probably needs to be able to justify what they're doing with it and how they're ensuring the safety of those around them, particularly as has already been pointed out, there's a legal limit of 1mW for pointers in the UK.

James

I do understand concerns and laws over laser use regionally and nationally across the globe are varied but am only sharing technical and product information here in regards to using lasers for astronomy. Those who choose to exceed the posted speed limits in their travels do so at their own risk and the risk to others, I do not condone illegal activities but do have an interest in the safe and responsible use of the devices and the advantages they bring to the hobby.

                        Freddie...

 

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I did hear tell that there is a phone laser app, turns the phone into a laser pointer, no idea how that works ?

Dave

Edited by Davey-T
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For what it's worth, I feel I should point out that I think laser pointers can be very useful for astronomy.  I do own and use a 1mW laser myself when pointing things out to others if I think it's helpful.

James

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6 hours ago, Sland said:

 

5 hours ago, JamesF said:

there's a legal limit of 1mW for pointers in the UK.

Can anyone identify the specific legislation on this?

The PHE site "advises" that the sale of laser products to the general public be limited to class 1 or 2 and trading standards may remove class 3b & class 4 products from sale to the general public, but goes on to say:" it is recognised that consumers also purchase products direct via the Internet and while on overseas holidays, which is difficult to control", which would seem to imply that owning (and indeed using responsibly) a 5mW laser pointer is not illegal.

This police website states "There are no specific UK laws relating to laser pointers, however, the Health Protection Agency suggests that no laser pens more powerful than Class 2 be available for general sale".

It may, of course, be that you have more uptodate information than these articles, but as my laser pointer is 5mW (green) and was sold by an astro-supplier (not mentioning any names) in the UK as a "finder", if the statement in bbc article is based on anything more than journalistic hype, this could be a little concerning ...

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Interested to know too D, I did a search on Flo and collomation lasers is all that could be found. You think they would be selling lasers for use as finders as they are selling lasers for collomation and if the law requires less than 1mw that be the power likely sold although  in even limited light pollution I just can't see a less than 1mw laser being very visible as a finder but maybe I'm wrong as I have never tried using one below 1mw.

                            Freddie...

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It would have been really helpful if someone had mentioned the 1w UK limit earlier in this thread.  However I've tried it out, and it 'seems' to do what I require (point and find Polaris for my Omegon Minitrack).  I suppose  I must be careful, limit its use and be prepared for a possible knock on the door!

Edited by Geoffw
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Stick an led on a broom handle and point with that when pointing stuff out to people.

I fitted a red dot finder on my tracker.

Just because you found something someone is selling doesn't make that item legal to buy or use. The internet makes everything too accessible but people don't lose responsibility of 'should they' for where they live.

Edited by happy-kat
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I agree, but on the same principle, just because a media webpage says something is illegal does not make it so, particularly when "official" website say it isn't. Which is why I was requesting further info.

Edited by Demonperformer
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1 hour ago, Geoffw said:

It would have been really helpful if someone had mentioned the 1w UK limit earlier in this thread.  However I've tried it out, and it 'seems' to do what I require (point and find Polaris for my Omegon Minitrack).  I suppose  I must be careful, limit its use and be prepared for a possible knock on the door!

Geoff, I repeat my original response, way back there: You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.

You’re obviously going to be careful and, for what it’s worth I, too, have found no specific legislation about 1mW maximum or I would have mentioned it.

Clear skies!

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I've seen some websites for UK-based vendors of lasers which say they won't sell anything higher power to "non-corporate" buyers for that reason.  I'll have a search and see if I can find one or two again.

James

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From http://www.laserpointers.co.uk/

Quote

Laser pointers in the UK have special requirements to be legal under Health and Safety legislation , for a General public presentation use type laser, the requirements are Class 2 , less than one Milliwatt (1 mW ) in Power and must have a "momentary switch".

That's very specific wording, but I can't find it in (for example) PHE's current laser safety advice.  I may be looking in the wrong place.

James

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5 hours ago, JamesF said:

I've seen some websites for UK-based vendors of lasers which say they won't sell anything higher power to "non-corporate" buyers for that reason.  I'll have a search and see if I can find one or two again.

James

I bought mine from a site which said they wouldn’t dispatch laser pointers unless the  buyer could give good reason for wanting one. I wrote that it was for outreach at stargazing events. No checks were made and the pointer arrived fairly quickly.

I guess it’s just a box being ticked to show that they are being responsible suppliers and, anyhow, the laser is billed as <5mW. ?

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20 minutes ago, R26 oldtimer said:

If you were in the U.S. , it would be more legal to use trajectory bullets with an M16, than a laser pointer ?

What are “trajectory bullets” do they hurt more than the normal type?

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I think he means tracer bullets.

When I bought laser pointers for the school physics dept they were all 1mW with momentary switches.

 

I did buy a 5mW Galileo pointer from Laserglow in Canada for when I needed more power for certain demonstrations, but I no longer have it, it's locked in a drawer in one of the prep-rooms. I certainly wouldn't buy any of the crazy-powerful lasers that used to be available, including seriously dangerous 1 W blue lasers that can cause skin burns.

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3 hours ago, R26 oldtimer said:

If you were in the U.S. , it would be more legal to use trajectory bullets with an M16, than a laser pointer ?

No it would not ?

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11 minutes ago, Sland said:

Very interesting and thank you for posting this, it lends credibility to what I've already read many other places. Seems most all misuse comes from those not involved in useing lasers for astronomy but as toys, silly pointers and the like.

Really is too bad for those with good intentions, like the light polluters they have no clue how they might be affecting the enjoyment of others. 

                       Freddie...

 

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4 hours ago, SIDO said:

Very interesting and thank you for posting this, it lends credibility to what I've already read many other places. Seems most all misuse comes from those not involved in useing lasers for astronomy but as toys, silly pointers and the like.

Really is too bad for those with good intentions, like the light polluters they have no clue how they might be affecting the enjoyment of others. 

                       Freddie...

 

Just like the misuse of drones by a few may lead to draconian bans on them.

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7 hours ago, Sland said:

Great post, thanks for linking it.

So, as at Dec 2017, it appears that it is not illegal to own a 5mW pointer, but if I own one, I am responsible for any misuse (intended or not) and I may be required to demonstrate that I have no "intent" to misuse it, even if not doing so.

Mine is kept in my (covered) tupperware box when not in use, only taken out when I am pointing something out to a passer-by. I always take precautions of checking the area of sky for moving lights. Can even be a "teaching moment" for the local youth about "responsible" ownership and use.

I can live with that.

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1 hour ago, Demonperformer said:

Great post, thanks for linking it.

So, as at Dec 2017, it appears that it is not illegal to own a 5mW pointer, but if I own one, I am responsible for any misuse (intended or not) and I may be required to demonstrate that I have no "intent" to misuse it, even if not doing so.

Mine is kept in my (covered) tupperware box when not in use, only taken out when I am pointing something out to a passer-by. I always take precautions of checking the area of sky for moving lights. Can even be a "teaching moment" for the local youth about "responsible" ownership and use.

I can live with that.

I'm glad this thread on laser use is having teachable moments as well D, nice to see the subject not cut short...I'll leave it at that ?

                         Freddie...

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