Laser pointers are used by astronomers to point to notable locations in the sky. They are popular tools for public stargazing with groups because they can easily direct the attention of the whole group to a particular constellation or celestial object. Laser pointers are also used as finders, tools that locate celestial objects and help an astronomer point the telescope toward the correct location for closer observation.Continue Reading
The main kind of laser pointer used by astronomers both as a public stargazing tool and as a finder is the green laser. They are popular because, although they are normally inexpensive, they are capable of putting out a highly intense light beam that can be visible for hundreds of yards. This allows them to point very accurately at objects high above the ground. They are preferred to the even more common and less expensive red laser pointer because of a quirk of human anatomy. The human eye is particularly sensitive to green light, so green lasers are perceived as brighter than red lasers regardless of power setting.
Green laser pointers of the kind used by astronomers typically output 5 milliwatts or less of power. However, because laser light is highly concentrated into narrow beams, that amount of power is hazardous to the human eye if viewed directly. The beams themselves are not dangerous when viewed from the side, as they are when finding or pointing. However, when viewed head-on, they can cause temporary blindness, even at a great distance. The danger of strong laser light being pointed directly into pilots' eyes has led to numerous restrictions and guidelines on the use of these astronomical tools in many countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia.Learn more about Astronomy
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To predict planetary alignment, astronomers use the angular speeds of travel around the sun of different planets. Alignment occurs when any of the planets is in a direct line with the Earth and the Sun.Full Answer >
The International Astronomical Union (IAU), an organization of astronomers, names the craters on planets and moons in the solar system by giving each planet a creative theme. For example, the moon’s craters are usually named for deceased explorers, scientists and scholars, while large craters on Venus are named for famous women in various professional fields.Full Answer >