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Are green <5mW laser pointers legal to use in New York City?

  1. Apr 23, 2014 #1
    I've been searching for a while, but all I seem to find is information about how it's illegal to sell laser pointers to minors in New York City. That and I find some information on what else is illegal to do with a laser pointer in NYC (pointing at vehicles, officers, etc.).

    There's a lot of air traffic where I live. At least one plane can be seen in the sky at almost any given time. So of course using a green laser pointer for astronomy purposes would need to be done carefully here. However, I can't seem to find information straight out saying whether astronomy laser pointers are illegal or legal. Can anyone shed some light on this matter? Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2014 #2


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    New York City Administrative Code Section 10-134.2 Regulation of laser pointers;

    What is unclear about that? The intended use (astronomy) or the power of the device is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is if the beam travels "into or through a public place".
  4. Apr 23, 2014 #3
    Alright, thanks! I guess I was just being overly cautious and assuming that they were only considering lower power laser pointers here. I'm guessing the sky doesn't count as a public place? I'm still a bit wary that I might be called out as trying to point my laser at planes since there are so many of them around here, but hopefully I get more comfortable with that. Thanks again.
  5. Apr 23, 2014 #4
    nothing wrong with being overcautious with lasers
  6. Apr 24, 2014 #5


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    If you've got planes full of people flying thru it, yes, the sky counts as a 'public place'. You can't get any more public than that.

    It's also not clear why a laser pointer is useful for your astronomical observations. These devices should be used in a manner that will not expose an unwary third party to its light or provide an unsafe distraction.
  7. Apr 24, 2014 #6
    The laser is used to point out celestial objects in the sky. Beats using your finger.

    FBI has a $10,000 reward program for information about anyone pointing a laser at aircraft, and that means anyone, even astronomical buffs, of which they are fully aware of the lasers usage in that regard. Especially dangerous at airports. If your laser strikes a plane and if found out, expect a lot of time consuming explanation, so stay away from airports.

    I believe there are flights paths for aircraft available to the public, so reference that to be safe. There are probably some flights tracker system that you could invest in to be aware of flights going in and out of your area.
  8. Apr 24, 2014 #7


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    Not if it gets the FBI on your case, it doesn't.
  9. Apr 24, 2014 #8


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    and known flight paths

    the best one is Flightradar24.com
    totally awesome, its been around for a good number of years
    its uses the transmitted VHF SQUAWK data to give all the aircraft speed height direction etc info

    I used it last Monday to track my wife's flight from Sydney Airport, Australia to Manila, Philippines

    the importation, sale and use of laser pointers is restricted in Australia
    the exact laws vary from state to state

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