Mostly harmless… Astronomy, that is, encounters with mind- bending phenomena, awe-inspiring out-of- this-world scenery, and very old stuff which is always changing, is a civilized pursuit in which the equipment and practices rarely pose a danger, except to the pocketbook…
Even in the most polite, well-regulated local universe, exceptions occur, and in the realm of astronomical equipment… Expect the unexpected…
are startlingly bright seem to reach to the stars have a high cool factor make education and public outreach (EPO) easier, & CAN BE REALLY DANGEROUS! Due to the special quality of laser light, and our eyes’ sensitivity to their “green” wavelength, GLPs:
Lasers are not toys – they demand respect in handling Direct exposure to the beam from a 5 mW GLP can result in anything from temporary flash blindness, to permanent retinopathy, or worse. The more powerful the output of the laser, the greater the potential damage; remember, your most valuable astronomical instruments are your eyes! “Trading-up” to a better pair is not a viable option.
Point the bright beam of a laser in your own face and you’ll appear dim, aim it at someone else’s eyes and your worldly goods, circle of friends, and welcome at star parties will critically diminish, target an aircraft and you’ll wish you were buried head-first on Venus …
A momentary and unexpected laser flash, can startle a pilot with catastrophic results. Glare from flashing the cockpit can cause major reductions in the crew’s visual acuity, including reduced contrast, loss of night vision, and afterimages. An accident could result in injuries and fatalities.
Under the Canadian Aeronautics Act, conviction for laser flashing an aircraft carries maximum penalties of a five- year prison term, and a $100,000 fine.
And, when you do get out, your astronomy friends may not prove so friendly, because you’ve made their lives more difficult. Astronomy outreach and fundraising become hopeless when they’re popularly associated with a criminally stupid act, committed by a morally careless person. You may even destroy your astronomy club.
GLPs are useful if you’re SMART about using them. S afe=place safety foremost M ature=keep GLPs in responsible hands A stute=use GLPs skilfully and economically R ational=match your GLP use to your scientific approach T actical=think ahead—plan your GLP use
Ensure that GLPs are operated only by designated, responsible adults, preferably RASC members who are familiar with the potential hazards of laser light.
We recommend the following guidelines for safe and rational GLP use: 1. take special care not to shine GLPs in the direction of any person, vehicle, aircraft, or wildlife 2. avoid using a GLP near an airport or airport runway approach 3. use the minimum power to do the job: if a 5 mW laser is bright enough, why use a stronger one? 4. be aware that distraction and distress can be experienced by anyone illuminated by green laser light, even if the level is well below that which would cause physiological damage 5. Use good sense in storing GLPs. Don’t leave lasers accessible to children. Consider removing the batteries when you are done using a GLP
Remember, the future use of GLPs in Canada is in YOUR hands. YOUR actions count!