Experiences and tests using a 15mW Wicked Laser

Experiences of a 35mW Wicked Laser now added too

See my test report article published in MNASSA, June 2006.
The day I received this welcome gift - a 15mW Wicked Laser - I was like a child who got a tourch for Christmas and cannot wait for nightfall to try it out! I had to restrain myself from diving in under a bed! Judging by its brightness when operating it in daytime, already showed this to be a serious laser!

Since I regularly do star-parties with the public, I always wanted a powerful green laser to point out stars, planets and constellations. I once tested a <5mW version but it was a great disappointment. So my first night out with the laser was aimed at this application.

My first impressions exceeded my greatest expectations!

Below are three pictures with me pointing out the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, in the constellation of Canis Major, Orion´s big hunting dog, on its side here. For those unfamiliar with the constellations or confused by their orientation in the southern sky, I included a screenshot of the free-ware program Cartes du Ciel, showing the sky from my location at the time I took these pictures.

Although a first quarter Moon lit up the sky, the laser-beam was very easily visible, even at 20 metres away from the person doing the pointing, meaning that a large group of people can all comfortably follow the presentation, a common complaint with low power green lasers.

An idea of the brightness of the laser beam can be seen in these pictures when comparing it to bright Sirius which is visible from even the most light-polluted cities of the world. I have since used this laser at two star-parties with great success.

They don't call these lasers WICKED for nothing! And this is only the baby version!

All pictures were taken with a Canon PowerShot A510 digital camera, using 15 sec. exposure at f/2.6 and ISO 400. No image processing was done to try and enhance the laser beam´s brightness. To get an idea of what it looks like by eye, stars down to about 1 magnitude more than the naked eye can see, registered on these pictures.


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Comparison tests with a >5mW z-bolt.com laser

After showing a colleague these pictures, we were curious to see how the 15mW Wicked Laser compares to his green laser pointer from www.z-bolt.com. This laser has been used with success to point out astronomical objects to small groups.It is not clear what the output power of the Z-BOLT laser is. Its label shows it to also be Class IIIb (meaning above 5mW, I think) and gives the power to be 5-500mW peak which is a massive range! The included pamphlet calls it an OEM Modified Handheld Laser with power output of 7.5 ~ 50mW. This laser was bought a while ago and it is not clear from their website what the current equivalent is.

By eye the Z-BOLT unit was not as bright as the 15mW Wicked Laser as confirmed by the pictures below. The exposures were the same as before and both lasers were kept on and held still for the full 15 sec. exposure. Unfortunately there was thin cirrus cloud around (hence some stars missing) but no Moon. This time Orion was the target (yes, its upside-down as seen from the southern hemisphere) with the two lasers pointing out the ends of Orion´s belt. The Z-BOLT laser is on the left and the Wicked Laser, right. To ensure fairness, both units were fitted with fresh batteries for the test.

Interestingly, while we were taking these pictures, my next-door neighbour peeped over the garden wall. He just happen to be sitting on his back stoep looking up at Orion when he spotted an occasional green beam pointing to the right-hand Belt-star (he could not see the dimmer left-hand beam). We were pointing over his house and I estimate the distance to him to be at least 30 metres - and his stoep-light was on!

Like I said before, they don't call these lasers WICKED for nothing!


Trying it out under clear, dark sky conditions

My final test was to try it out under dark skies from a site where the air is very clean and clear. Such a site can be found at the Sutherland Observatory in the Karoo during the dark moon period of the month.

For good comparison, I again selected the same two starfields. As can be seen from the pictures below, the results are similar even though the air is so much cleaner, having fever particles to scatter the light. Notice how many more stars are visible against the valvet black sky than before.

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Comparing a 15mW with a 35mW Wicked Laser

On 19 June 2006 a 35mW green laser pointer from Wicked Lasers was delivered to my doorstep. Initially, operating it in daytime, it did not strike me as being more than double as bright as the 15mW, but at a closer look, one can actually just see the beam in broad daylight when looking straight down it.

When it got dark, the difference became quite obvious. Seeing that my son was not around to help me to take some pictures, I had to improvise by taking pairs of identical exposures with 5 seconds delay in between, allowing me time to change lasers and position. These I assembled into animations showing the difference in brightness - the 15mW is on the left and the 35mW to the right. For the stellar backdrop, I selected Crux with its pointers and Scorpius, pointing out first magnitude Antares.

Trying out the 35mW near bright lights showed that this laser would work well as a star-pointer in very badly light polluted conditions.