[AZ-Observing] No lasers at Bryce Canyon

  • From: George Barber <gbarber@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: az-observing@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2006 10:13:30 -0700

I'd hate to see lasers banned from the GCSP.  They are such a helpful tool
for teaching the public about constellations and the stars.  I believe it
would be better to determine and distribute a set of guidelines for laser
usage, so that everyone is aware of them, rather than just generate an
outright ban.  I think you would find that the average green laser user at
a public star party is pretty aware of the responsibilities that go along
with owning a green laser.  If it turns out that someone is using a laser
in an annoying way, simply letting the person know this should be quite
enough to discourage them from continuing that behavior.

As far as higher laser powers are concerned, most people only own one green
laser.   Generally, these are not adjustable (OK, I have one that is).  The
higher  power output lasers are generally not a problem during twilight and
early  evening, but can be a problem once full darkness is reached.  Rather
than  placing output milliwatt limitations on green lasers at star parties,
I  suppose you could find a way to limit the current to the IR diode inside
the  laser.   This  should  reduce the laser output.  The Optotronics laser
that  I  own  has  a  multi-position  switch built in which does this exact
thing,  allowing  the selection of different resistances in series with the
IR diode to provide the desired power output.

This  may sound complicated, but the easiest way to do this is to use a set
of  not-quite-fresh  batteries.   This also happens on colder evenings when
the laser and batteries do not operate as efficiently.  I believe it may be
possible  to  make a small disk of a low-resistance material, about 1/8" to
1/4"  thick  and  the  same  diameter as a AAA or AA battery, that could be
inserted  in  series  with the batteries, thus limiting the current and the
laser's  output  power.  This material would have a very low resistance, of
maybe  just  a few tenths of an ohm.  I'll see what I can come up with, and
put  it on the forums.  I will have to experiment with different materials,
but  the  first  thing  that  comes  to mind is a cross-section of a simple
1-watt  low-ohm  resistor.   I've  got these in my parts box.  Doing all of
this  would  allow  high-power laser owners to drop down the laser power so
that  they  could  continue to use their laser without causing interference
with others around them.

I  know  there  was  a  reaction  to  the green laser incident (blinding of
airline  pilots)  on the east coast, resulting in some star parties banning
green lasers.  This may be why there are no lasers allowed at Bryce Canyon.
I'd   like  to  see  these  decisions  re-evaluated,  now  that  additional
information  has become available regarding these types of incidents.  Even
with our telescopes and other equipment, the simple tool of the green laser
is  a  powerful way to help people connect with the night sky.  I'm sure we
have all experienced this in our workings with the public.  Our use of this
21st  century  marvel  will  allow  us to continue helping everyone to keep
looking up.

George

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