Equipment review

By Bill Dellinges (10/02)

Beta Green Laser Pointer

Price: $150.

Purchased from:

Beta Electronics, Columbus, Ohio.

I use a million candle power spot light for pointing out stars and constellations to groups. For several years I have considered a laser pointer for this purpose. I bought one from this company because it was $35 cheaper than Howie Glatterís version. This unit comes in a nice small case to store the pointer and the two AAA batteries that power it. When I questioned a company spokesman on the phone as to why their version is cheaper than Glatterís product, I was told they simply had a lower mark up price. Their unit is black, the Glatter unit is brass looking. Both are about the size of a typical pen. I was assured the interior working parts were the same (Hmmmmm? OK, if you say so). I put it to the test in my backyard in Apache Junction, which has a sky darkness somewhere between the city and a dark sky site. I aimed it east, my darkest portion of sky and pressed the button. Sure enough, a very narrow straight green beam shot out directly at the star I was pointing it at. I immediately was unimpressed. The beam seemed weak to me, I had to make an effort to see it. Adverted vision helped. I asked my wife to use it as I stepped gradually away from her to ascertain how a group may perceive it. Bad news. At a distance of only three feet from her, I could not see the beam. Thus I concluded this product would be useless to me for instructional purposes and I returned it the following day (they offer a 15 day return policy). They did offer to check their inventory for one that might yield a stronger or brighter beam and let me try that one. Though a generous offer, I declined. Jane Houston Jones tells me she was disappointed in her laser pointer from Beam of Light Technologies (www.z-bolt.com) and doesnít use it any longer. So maybe some one might have better luck with Howie Gatterís product? Meanwhile Iím sticking with my trusty spotlight to point the way to the stars.