When it comes to stargazing, laser pointers are all the rave. Emitting a narrow, intense beam of light that is visible for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of meters at night if weather conditions allow, lasers can give you some breathless views in a night sky. You’ll probably find a green laser pointer (GLP) in the toolkit of any amateur stargazer.
These lasers are very easy to use, and are fairly accurate in pinpointing stars and constellations. It’s a small yet powerful, family-friendly device to use as long as you’re using it correctly.
Yet, this device is strong enough to cause flash blindness, causing some unneeded run-ins with the law. So here are some rules to follow:
- Never point it at another person, vehicle, or aircraft of any kind.
- Never look directly into the beam of any type of laser pointer
- Don’t allow children to use it unsupervised.
- Don’t use it anywhere within 2 miles (3 kilometers) of an airport
Making sure you take these precautions, you can now get into the best way to use your laser for amazing stargazing.
As a finderscope
Considered one of the most important components of your telescope setup, the finderscope helps locate objects. Because of the pen-shaped dimensions of a pointer, it can fit into the finderscope holder on your telescope, working together for great results. The beam will point even before you look through the telescope, acting as both a pointer and finderscope.
Align with a telescope
Depending on your telescope, you may need to remove your Telrad to do this. Using the laser bracket’s adjustment screws you can center a star in your eyepiece by aiming the laser’s beam at the star. It will be a lot easier to calibrate on a star if you center on the moon first, especially after removing your Telrad. Now that you have a calibrated GLP, you can use it in almost the same way as your Telrad finder. As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn about laser pointers, so click here to find a great index of different lasers plus a lot of information you’ll need to buy the right one. Lasers come in all different sizes, shapes and prices, so you need to compare and read reviews before making your purchase.
Your power output determines the brightness; the higher it is, the brighter the laser for a fixed wavelength. For example, if you compare between a green and red laser with the same power output, the green laser will be brighter. Green lasers are the easiest for the eyes to follow rather than red or blue. However, when it comes to power output, higher is not always better.
The takeaway here is that when you buy a laser pointer, opt for one bright enough for the beam to be clearly seen but not too much that it affects vision. Before you buy one, make sure you research the models available properly, decide which color you want (green is the one we recommend the most), and get the right power output for your needs. Have fun stargazing!