• Welcome to Orpington Astronomical Society.


New version SMF 2.1.4 installed. You may need to clear cookies and login again...

Main Menu

FAQ: Are we allowed to use laser pointers for astronomy

Started by Carole, Apr 08, 2009, 21:01:26

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Can some-one update me on whether we are or arn't allowed to use lasers for astronomy. Have heard two differing stories.



Yes they are perfectly legal as long as you don't shine them at aircraft.
We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. Carl Sagan


Otherwise you get hit with a Hellcat  :twisted:
Growing Old is mandatory - Growing Up is optional



however, there was mention in the news report that they are attempting to change the emphasis in law regarding intent. Currently, the intent to disrupt the flight must be proved, which would give any accidental illumination of an aircraft by an astronomer an obvious defence. It was reported that the intent part of the offence will be removed which then places the onus on the astronomer to ensure that the pointer is never shone at an aircraft, even by accident.

That said, there isn't and won't be any offence committed if the laser is not shone on an aircraft. They do not seem to be trying to outlaw the pointers themselves which is good news. We're all responsible astronomers here... Just make sure you monitor where your laser pointer is pointing at all times, particularly if you're using it attached to your mount.


Yebbut...in Tonbridge you can hardly not point it at an aircraft - we are too close to Gatwick.  The difference in the number of aircraft between here and my former abode in West Norfolk is remarkable.


QuoteYebbut...in Tonbridge you can hardly not point it at an aircraft - we are too close to Gatwick.
Well I guess that makes us even.
We got too much pollution and you got too many planes!!



The Thing

Since at least a few of us do astronomy in France we need to know what their rules are as well.

I've just come back from Normandy where I attended an outside talk in the dunes on constellations and their myths (hard going for my french!). The speaker seemed to say that he used a large torch instead of a laser pointer as it was difficult to show you weren't pointing it at aircraft. Didn't stop him borrowing my pointer for a bit though (took it to point things out for my missus if we didn't stay with the talk).


Actually the light pollution in Tonbridge is not as bad as in King's Lynn.  From my new back yard, for example, I can see the main stars in Lyra, not just Vega.  From King's Lynn I can only see Vega.  I really do not understand why. 

The altitude is hardly any different, although we are most of the way up a hill here, and above the worst murk of the town.

It may be humidity.  Our house in Lynn is only a couple of miles from the sea at high tide, and there's no doubt we pick up cloud there when the sea breeze reverses early in the night.  Perhaps sometimes the cloud is too light to see.



This has been in the media a fair bit recently with youths being arrested. Does anyone have a current view on the law relating to use of these pointers?


I would think that if you are not stupid and use the pointer sensibly you should be OK, although you might get a visit from plod anyway if someone reports it.
If you show there is a valid reason for use and you weren't trying to blind pilots, common sense should prevail.

Laser pointers as toys for kids is just plain stupid.
Growing Old is mandatory - Growing Up is optional

Tony G

Quote from: mickw on Feb 19, 2013, 08:43:19
Laser pointers as toys for kids is just plain stupid.

Does anyone want to buy a laser pointer.  :cry:

Tony G
"I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me Superman." - Homer Simpson

Tony G

I now have 3 lasers in my possession, a red, green and blue/purpley one.  :twisted:

Tony G
"I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me Superman." - Homer Simpson


I know I am very late to this discussion but I would like to add a word of caution.

Bromley has a large number of aircraft flying overhead and a laser accidentally be shone at one. This could lead to an embarrassing visit from the police and some explaining. During the course of my work I have seen somebody sentenced to 12 months for misusing a laser (Of course in very different circumstances to using one for astronomy).

It can be treated rather seriously and not all magistrates or judges (or police and prosecutors) will understand.


Sir Isaac Newton should have said, "If I have seen further than others it is by inventing my own telescope".


Have one but mainy for observing which i dont do/use.
RedCat51,QHYCCD183,Atik460EX,EQ6-R.Tri-Band OSC,BaaderSII1,25" 4.5nm,Ha3.5nm,Oiii3.5nm.