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Old 11-22-2009, 03:53 PM #1
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Default Astronomy Laser Question

From what I understand it is illegal to have a laser above 5MW in public. To I am wondering how a astronomy laser labeled for 30MW at 532 NM is legal.



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Old 11-22-2009, 04:00 PM #2
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Default Re: Astronomy Laser Question

Handguns won't reach a plane, lasers will. Also, remember that MW means Megawatt, I think you meant Milliwatt, which is written "mW".

About your question, it's not illegal to have a laser over 5mW or to use it in public as long as it's FDA approved and you are not annoying anyone. The 30mW lasers you've seen are probably FDA approved. This means that they have some features that make them more secure.

(I'm assuming you're in USA, right?)

Yours,
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Old 11-22-2009, 04:02 PM #3
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Default Re: Astronomy Laser Question

Thanks that makes sense. I had forgotten about mW and MW.

Also, how is a FDA approved laser safer then a 5mW that I am running 30mW through?
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Old 11-22-2009, 04:08 PM #4
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Default Re: Astronomy Laser Question

The FDA is trying to make a show of "protecting us" from stupid and irresponsible people. I use higher output lasers often, and if asked "is that legal", I reply, it really depends on how it is used. In fact there is no such thing as a legal "pointer" that has an output >5 mW. But in settings where there is no one complaining or reporting to authorities, or in private, there is only the issues of safety and responsible use as in keeping from irritating or scaring strangers that effectively could become an issue. Also, although a FDA approved "portable laser of over 5 mW" is not in and of itself against the law to own and posses, there is a lot of "red tape" to actually demonstrate it's use in public. One would basically have to have "Laser show" permition from local athorities, and if out of doors, even air traffic would be notified to insure air safety. None the less, many astronomers use >5 mW and just keep a low profile so that no distant land traffic or aircraft has the ability to see it, and then usually no one complains. But this use is not legal. -Glenn
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Old 11-22-2009, 04:24 PM #5
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Talking Re: Astronomy Laser Question

Naah ..... they are just trying to have the less problems possible in accusing you, when you do something bad.

With a common, pen-style, no-safety equipped pointer, is easy to defend yourself saying "it was an accident, i just pressed the switch (or something fallen on it) for error" ..... but with "FDA approved" ones, with keylock and safety pin, you cannot say "it's an error, i just turned the key, plugged in the pin and pressed the switch not intentionally" .....

And, really, what the hell of difference you think there is, being blinded from an illegal one, or from a legal, approved one ? ..... the satisfaction of can say "yes, i lost an eye, but it was done legally" ? .....

(apart, ofcourse, all the money that "FDA approved" units costs in taxes to the contributors ..... )
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Old 11-22-2009, 08:05 PM #6
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Default Re: Astronomy Laser Question

This raises the question, my 30mW "astronomy" laser just has a button, is it legal?
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Old 11-22-2009, 08:14 PM #7
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Default Re: Astronomy Laser Question

@HIML9: not really. Look at the evo pro. I almost loose an eye by accident >.> no key, and the pin is always in.

@jacob: no, it's not. But I wouldn't be so worried about it. Just don't shine it on aircrafts. If you are pointing at a start, make circles around it to reduce to 0 the probabilities to touch one. As long as you don't make bad things with it (annoying people, etc...) you won't be in problem. Anyway, I would take the sticker out of it and if you ever get caught, just say it's 5mW. How will they know... xD
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Old 11-22-2009, 10:51 PM #8
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Default Re: Astronomy Laser Question

I think there is some confusion about the legalities of owning lasers...
I have never read anywhere that ClassIIIb lasers are illegal to own. They are, however, illegal to import.
Australia is the exception... there you cannot use a >1mW pointer in public.

As far as I know, there is nothing illegal about owning or using a >5mW laser. Importation is regulated, and as long as your laser has FDA compliant safety features and an accession number, there is no reason you cannot import the device.
ALL laser devices, including those under 5mW must be regulated and have the proper warning labels and documentation (and safety features, if applicable) in order to be sold legally.

I think the only law regarding public use of laser pointers above 5mW is that you cannot direct one skyward within 10 miles of an airport and you cannot use it to harass people, point at vehicles, or occupied buildings.

A 30mW laser is legal to use, but illegal to import unless it is fully FDA compliant.
Most of us (if not all) ignore this and import >5mW pointers anyway.

Regarding safety features...
The safety features, such as key interlock, delay, etc., do not prevent accidents. Accidents happen regardless. This is why secondary safety precautions (i.e. goggles) are recommended for higher power lasers. In my opinion, however, use of your brain is worth more than safety features and goggles combined.

So, Jacob, there is nothing illegal about using a >5mW pointer in public as long as you are not using it as an instrument of delinquency.
However, the regulations and laws vary from state to state, or country to country, so if you are really concerned, you may want to do some research on local laws. Generally, though, I wouldn't worry about it.
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