If you’re looking for a good laser pointer for astronomy, then you’re in the right place. Finding the right laser pointer can be confusing, and it’s difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, I have some experience that I’ll impart onto you to help you make a rational decision on what the best laser pointer for astronomy will be for your needs.
Getting the right pointer can be overwhelming – if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Whether you’re a keen astronomer looking to add a laser pointer to your arsenal or you’re a beginner, I’ll give you my honest opinion on what a solid choice would be for you.
Criteria to meet
I’m sure you’re aware that many regulations have been applied in recent years that really restrict the laser pointers that you can purchase.
Whilst my preference is for laser pointers that are relatively high in mW (milliwatts), it’s no longer a wise idea for me to recommend a laser pointer with a high power output. Luckily for you, that doesn’t mean to say that all astronomy laser pointers are now illegal to purchase and won’t work properly.
If you want a laser pointer that is clearly visible in the night sky, I advise that you follow these two recommendations. Firstly, opt for a green laser pointer. This is because green is the best for vision, especially at night time. You eyes will be more responsive to a green laser pointer as opposed to another color.
The second is to try and get a 5 mW laser pointer. This is the recommended higher laser power output that you can currently get in the United States, and it’s certainly enough for what we’re trying to do here.
In reality, any 5 mw green laser pointer will do if you’re looking for a good option for astronomy. Here’s a few that I’ve seen that will get the job done.
The Best Astronomy Laser Pointers
On a budget, my current favorite option for an astronomy laser pointer is actually a simple one like this Laser 301 from Amazon. It looks super basic and cheap from China, and essentially that’s exactly what it is. But, for astronomy purposes, this kind of laser pen is awesome.
It’s super bright, and it definitely meets the 5mW mark in terms of power (that means you technically shouldn’t buy it if you’re in the UK, but the onus is on the seller in this case). It won’t burn a hole in stuff, but you should definitely make sure that you keep it away from your eyes, because it can easily flash blind you.
You can find these types of laser pointers on Chinese resellers like Alibaba, but they’re actually not much cheaper than you’ll find them on Amazon or eBay. I reached out and actually purchased one of these laser pointers from Aliexpress – it was $8, so I was pretty happy with it. I then got charged a few bucks for delivery – so I might as well have bought it directly from Amazon!
Here’s a few pics of what the laser pointer looks like;
To be honest, I thought it would feel like a cheaply made piece of trash, but it’s much better than I expected. I also ordered a couple of other laser pointers off of AliExpress, but this was definitely the best one that I could find.
It also comes with a charger, which is really handy and saves you from running through tons of different batteries. It’s a cheap option but it’s as good as anything else you’re going to find on the market right now. Make sure you get one that includes the charger and battery, because otherwise you’ll end up spending a fortune on batteries as this does use some juice.
Here’s a pic of how powerful the pointer is (I couldn’t use it in the sky because the weather was muggy and you couldn’t see much!);
It’s powerful enough for astronomy, and I’m ultimately happy with it – just make sure you don’t pay too much for a laser pointer, because then you’ll have more money for stuff like your binoculars or telescope!
The difficult with these other options on the list is that whilst I’ve recommended them and used them myself in the past, they’re pretty hard to get a hold of. You might find them online one day on Amazon, but gone the next. I’ll still talk about them anyway so if you want to have a search, you can.
The Pinty Hunting Rifle Laser is a pretty solid option if you want a laser pointer that will suit your astronomy purposes.
You’ll probably notice that this is a ‘hunting rifle laser’. Is that any different than a laser pointer? Well, no. But due to many regulations that have been put in place, you won’t really find laser pointers for sale on larger sites like Amazon anymore due to the term ‘pointer’. This term implies that you’re going to point it at someone, so you’re far more likely to see ‘pen’ or just simply ‘laser’ instead.
There are still some larger laser pointer companies in action, but for the most part when you see laser pointer you’ll find people talking about smaller 1 mW pointers or those used for presentations.
Anyway, this rifle pointer is as good as any other that I’ve seen on the market if you’re looking for something that you can use late at night. It has a wavelength of 532nm, which is near peak sensitivity for your eyes (which is why I recommend green as opposed to other colors).
The good thing about using a rifle pointer is that it’s made of high quality exterior, so you don’t need to worry about it breaking if you accidentally drop it. Another reason that I’d recommend opting for this one is that it’s available at a really cheap price if you compare it to some other lasers you may find on other websites. For amateur astronomy, you don’t need anything really expensive, so this one is a good option.
The batteries are easily replaceable too, so you don’t need to worry about having to purchase expensive batteries to keep it going. I’d advise you pick up some batteries too though, because this will drain relatively quickly.
Overall, this is a great option for an new astronomer who wants a clearly visible beam that they can use on a regular basis.
If you would like a more traditional option for a laser pointer, then you could check out the Barska GLX or the Streamlight. They are both more traditional laser pointers (the Barska is a rifle scope but is more similar to a pointer) that will work well as astronomy tools.
Like I’ve said, you don’t really need anything more than a 5mW laser for this purpose. The Barska is designed as another rifle laser attachment, but it works just as well as a laser pointer.
Barska are a large company specialising is sports optics. The reason I mention this is that it’s confirmation you aren’t investing in another cheap brand of laser pointers that you could pick up cheaply from a Chinese reseller. Between this option and the Streamlight, I’d opt for the Streamlight in all honesty. Not for anything technical, but primarily for the difference in size; the Barska is a little bulky in comparison.
Whereas the Streamlight is specifically made as a laser pen/pointer. It’s durable enough due to the high quality casing that is used, and you can see from the picture below that it’s relatively small in size. This is particularly handy if you want a laser pen that you can take out with you and won’t take up substantial room in your bag.
This is a great option if you just want a simple laser pointer that you can take out with you, giving you a clear beam in the night sky.
Uses in Astronomy
An important use for visible lasers is in the field of astronomy, mainly for star pointing. As lasers have the unique ability to emit a straight, highly visible laser beam clearly across the night sky, it can accurately point out stars and constellations. Often times, you’ll find lasers attached to telescopes where when properly adjusted can aid in guiding the telescope to the correct position.
Red or Green Laser for Astronomy
A commonly debated topic amongst astronomers, many people debate whether you should use a green laser or a red laser for stargazing. It is subjective, but I’ll give my opinion on this a little (but keep in mind it is my opinion).
A green laser will always be more effective for astronomy. The simple reason for this is that green lasers are more visible to users than red lasers and other colored lasers – that’s really it. Now, there are other things that we should consider which may help to explain why the green laser is more popular than it’s competitors.
We often get this question and the answer is simple: they’re just not nearly as visible! The color red is close to the infrared spectrum, which means it has much less energy than colors on the visible spectrum. So when a red laser makes contact with dust in the air or water molecules, its energy is simply absorbed as opposed to reflected.
One of the main reasons green lasers are so popular, particularly high-powered handhelds, is due to the light-saberesque beam the emit. They have a slightly wider aperture than a simple pointer and when the beam makes contact with particles in the air or atmosphere, it’s reflected; this is why the beam is so visible on a green laser.
Best Laser Color For Astronomy
The first topic I want to discuss is the color of the laser. This is very important and you should know that green lasers are the brightest because our eyes are most sensitive to this color.
In darkness – I assume you’ll be viewing stars in complete darkness – green is brightest followed by blue, red, and violet. What this means is that a green laser is most visible to your eyes, and the most commonly used color of laser pointer for astronomy.
Additionally, it requires less energy to produce the same laser brightness compared to other colors. We offer two types of green laser pointers, a 532nm and a 520nm version. While both are green, these operate very differently where the 532nm is a DPSS laser and the 520nm version is direct diode.
I won’t go over the difference in this article, for clarification on this and why the 520nm direct diode laser is the better choice, have a look at the laser guide. While green laser pointers are the most popular, red and blue lasers can also be used in astronomy.
My eyes are actually quite sensitive to blue in darkness, however, due to the high cost of blue lasers in the past, blue lasers were seldom purchased for this purpose.
In recent years, however, the cost of blue lasers have gone down dramatically hue to bulk production and new technologies arising making blue lasers a new, refreshing choice for astronomy laser pointers. Lastly, let’s touch upon red laser pointers. While not as bright, red lasers can also be used for astronomy as the laser beam can still be visibly seen – though not as well as with a green laser pointer.
While a laser pointer can be a useful tool for astronomy, not every laser is fit for this purpose. There are many models offered in various colors (wavelengths), power outputs, and prices, which one do you actually need?
Laser Power Output
If you know about lasers, you’ll know that power output determines brightness; the higher the power, the brighter the laser will be. Of course, this is relative only to a specific wavelength.
For example, a green and red laser at the same power output will not have equal brightness. In this example, the green laser will be brighter. For some laser pointer vendors, they may recommend their highest powered, most expensive laser pointer. Although you may “wow” your audience initially, a bright laser may disrupt your night vision leaving your eyes adjusting every time the laser is turned on.
Hence, I actually never recommend anything that is too powerful. The key is to purchase a laser pointer that is bright enough where the laser line can be clearly seen, however, not so bright that your eyes refocuses.
In my opinion, you should opt for a minimum of 5 mW laser pointer in either green or blue.
What model and how much should I spend?
Laser pointers have evolved throughout the years and now come in all shapes and sizes from key chains, to pen-styled, to larger flashlight-styled lasers in a multitude of powers. Some laser pointers go as far as replicating what a laser sabre (from Star Wars) looks like!
First, I don’t recommend the large, flashlight styled lasers mainly because they are heavy and inconvenient. These lasers barely fit in your pocket, so unless you want to hold it throughout the night, be our guest! Also, the larger lasers usually mean higher powers which is usually too powerful for star gazing.
You should stay away from the key chain lasers as well as these are usually weak in power and poorly made. For 532nm green laser pointers, always ask if the product is equipped with an IR filter. Generally speaking, what you should look into are the pen-styled lasers or something just slightly larger. These often times are powered by AAA batteries and offer power ranges that are perfect for astronomy purposes.
If you intend to attach the laser pointer to a telescope, I suggest looking into a laser pointer that makes it specifically easy to do so (it should say in the guide). While pen-sized laser pointers were not meant for extended use (the average laser pointers should not be turned on for more than several minutes at a time), this is another condition that you’ll want – you need a laser pointer that stays on continuously.
You shouldn’t just buy any laser pointer. Before purchasing a laser pointer for astronomy, you need to ensure that you;
- Do proper research on which model you need.
- Decide on the color that you want to opt for (I say green or blue, but it’s up to you).
- Get the right power output for your needs.
- Opt for the right model.
If you do all of this correctly, then you’ll undoubtedly end up with a solid laser pointer that will work well for you.
Last update on 2019-09-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API