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When you shine a laser pointer at something, a small dot appears, and it doesn’t seem to matter how far away you are.
What if you aimed that laser pointer skyward, at the Moon? Would the light actually make it there? If there was an astronaut on the surface of the Moon, would they notice the laser dot and wonder what was going on?
While it’s a fun thought, the light from a laser pointer would never make it to the Moon in a way that would leave a small dot like that. But that doesn’t mean the light wouldn’t make it there at all. It’s a great question, and we break down everything that you need to know here. In short, the light from a laser pointer can reach the Moon, though you wouldn’t be able to see it.
While this answer might surprise you, the truth is that the light from a laser pointer will indeed reach the Moon. The light rays keep going for infinity, just like how the light from stars hundreds and thousands of light years away still reaches the Earth.
However, just because the light makes it to the Moon doesn’t mean you’re getting the desired results. While the light rays might reach the Moon, no one there would notice them (if there was someone there!).
The short answer here is no. Just because the light reaches the Moon doesn’t mean anyone there would actually see it. An observer on the Moon wouldn’t be able to see the light coming from a laser pointer for a few reasons.
First, the light doesn’t stay tight enough together from a laser pointer. It will spread out when you point it at the Moon. The light from the laser pointer would spread out over this entire area, and not enough light would reach any one area to make a noticeable difference.
Second, the light has to go through the Earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere absorbs and disperses the light over an even wider area, making it even harder for the light to reach the Moon.
Finally, the light from a laser pointer simply isn’t powerful enough to make it through all these things and stay close enough together to make a noticeable light on the Moon. So, if you’re wondering if light from a laser pointer leaves a small light on the Moon, the simple answer is no.
Did you know that the color of your laser pointer affects how far the light can go? Green laser pointers tend to shine farther than other colors, like red. So, get a green one if you want a bit more power behind your laser pointer.
It might not seem like it would make a big difference, but it does!
Not only do different colored laser pointers shine at different distances, but they also cost different amounts. It might not come as a surprise to learn that the most powerful color is also the most expensive.
Green laser pointers require more components to make, and manufacturers tend to use more powerful diodes, driving up the price further. So, while you might want a green laser pointer because it’s more powerful, you’ll need to spend more to get it.
Even though you now know that a laser pointer won’t leave a dot on the Moon, you might still want to try it, but we highly discourage you from pointing your laser pointer at the sky, especially at night.
While the light isn’t strong enough to reach the Moon, it can be strong enough to reach a plane that the night sky is hiding. Not only is shining a laser pointer at a plane illegal, but it’s also extremely dangerous. Play it safe, and keep the laser pointed here at Earth.
While it can be fun to think about the light from a little laser pointer in our hands traveling throughout the universe, it’s even more fun realizing that that’s exactly what happens.
It’s not a small beam of light that other lifeforms would notice, but it’s still something that will keep traveling over millions of miles and thousands of years, and it’s all coming from the small device in your hand.
Featured Image Credit: Svetliy, Shutterstock
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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