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How Far Can a Laser Pointer Go? Go to the Moon?

How Far Can a Laser Pointer Go? Go to the Moon?

There’s a good chance that you own a laser pointer. Many people have these handy little devices and they use them for a variety of different reasons.

You might use yours to help with your presentations at the office. Some people even use the laser pointers to play with their pets.

Have you ever wondered how far these laser pointers can go? Is there a point where the laser pointer has reached its maximum distance?

This is a question that many people wind up asking themselves. Learning about the truth of how far these laser pointers can go will allow you to get a better understanding of how they work.

Take a look at the information below in order to learn more about laser pointers. You’ll be able to examine just how far these things can go and you’ll even learn some interesting facts.

If you’ve ever been curious about just how much distance you can cover with a laser pointer, then you’ll definitely want to read on. You’ll likely gain an even better appreciation for just what these laser pointers are capable of.

how far laser go infographic

How Far Can a Laser Pointer Go?

a long silver 5 mW laser pointer

Okay, so this is not going to be a question that can be answered with a specific number. In order to determine exactly how far a laser pointer can go, you’ll need to know how powerful the laser is.

The more powerful the laser, the further the laser can go. This is likely not going to come as a surprise but it’s important to get that out of the way so that you can dig deeper into the topic.

Most laser pointers on the market are designed to have a five-milliwatt beam. There are certain legal limits for these laser pointers in certain places.

In the United States, laser pointers are supposed to stay under the 5mW limit in order to be sold. There are actually many laser points that exceed this limit, though.

Regardless, it’s simply important to acknowledge that laser pointers are supposed to operate at 5mW or less under the current standards that are in place.

Even laser pointers that are designed to be this weak can reach very far distances. In fact, lasers can even be detected or seen by airplanes in the sky. There are some photos and evidence of airplanes seeing laser pointer dots at a distance of at least twelve miles in the sky.

Lasers can be Dangerous

an airplane in the night

Knowing that lasers have the potential to reach this far up in the air is interesting. The fact that they can potentially still be visible at that far of a distance is pretty remarkable.

It’s also important to know that you should never shine a laser pointer at an airplane or any other type of vehicle. This could cause a distraction that could lead to problems and it’s simply an irresponsible way to use a laser pointer.

Laser pointers have the potential to reach vast distances when the conditions are right. If there is nothing in the way and there is no reason for the laser light to be obscured by the sun or other things, then it can go pretty far.

It’s even possible to shine a laser light and for it to be seen many miles away. The exact distance isn’t entirely known but they go a lot further than you may have ever realized.

Can a Laser Pointer Reach the Moon?

laser moon astronaut

The next question that people ask themselves a lot is whether or not a laser pointer can reach the moon. This is a complex topic and you’ll have to consider a few factors to get your answer.

Theoretically, a powerful enough laser pointer could reach the moon under completely ideal conditions. This is incredibly unlikely though due to sunlight and other factors.

A normal laser pointer would not be able to be seen on the moon due to not being powerful enough. Even more powerful lasers would need ideal conditions to have a chance but there are so many elements in the way.

You’d also need to have someone on the moon to try to observe the light. Then you’d have to be able to pinpoint the exact point where this laser is hitting the moon in order for the astronaut to observe it.

Could You See the Laser on the Moon?

You wouldn’t be able to observe it on earth due to the fact that the laser would need to bounce off the moon and come back to be seen. This just isn’t likely possible but it would be easier for someone to observe a laser on the moon that was coming from the earth. A standard laser pointer has no chance of being able to do this.

It’s also important to point out that you shouldn’t try to do this with more powerful lasers either. Lasers can be dangerous and you don’t want to cause yourself or others any harm.

Just know that this isn’t possible at this time but that theoretically a laser could be observed on the moon if the conditions were right and the laser was powerful enough. That’s the best answer that you can get as of the time of writing.


Why Can Laser Light Travel Far?

Have you ever wondered why laser beams travel much farther than other light sources?

The short answer is that lasers use artificial light wavelengths.

If you recall, each color of light has a different wavelength. For example, red light has a longer wavelength than blue light, while blue light’s is longer than purple, etc.

red laser travel far

Now, most light sources use a combination of all these long and short wavelengths.

In turn, the light is scattered around and soon dies down, meaning it can’t reach that far.

Lasers, on the other hand, only use one artificial wavelength, allowing the light to travel together.

As a result of that, it produces a narrow, bright, and focused beam.

And, since the light travels together, it doesn’t spread out, thus it can travel very far.

This is the reason why your laser beam travels much farther than, say, your flashlight.

Do Laser Pointers Go On Forever?

Laser Go On Forever

Technically, lasers beams can go on forever.

Realistically, that’s not the case.

We’ll explain what we mean.

Since laser beams travel together, it has infinite reach.

Unless, of course, something gets in its way, which will eventually happen. (We’re going to talk more about this later on)

Say nothing gets in the way, will the beam never stop then?

It will still fade.

This is because most lasers today are made with some sort of divergence to limit their power.

Well, this is where the milliwatts come in.

So a 60mW travels much farther than a 5mW because it has less divergence (when there’s nothing to stop the beam).

Can laser pointers go on forever?


At least it’s most likely NOT going to.

What Stops A Laser Beam?

a red laser beam

Okay, we said that laser beams stop on their tracks when it hits something.

But what is “something”?

An obvious answer will be a wall, object, or even a person (we DON’T advise you flashing your laser pointer at people, though!)

You might be thinking, “so if I flash it at the sky, there’s nothing that’ll get in the way”.


Birds and insects are something. Dust is something. Water vapor is something. Air is something.

Any matter – solid, liquid, gas – is classified as something.

That being said, a more powerful laser pointer can shine through a few liquids and gas until it dies out.

That’s why we say it’s nearly impossible for laser beams to go on forever. If it does, it’ll have to be an EXTREMELY strong laser.

In Conclusion

How far can a laser pointer go? They can go on for miles and this actually makes them somewhat dangerous.

It’s best to use these handy tools responsibly to avoid hurting someone or causing a distraction. It’s very interesting to know how powerful these handheld lasers are but you need to use that power safely.

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Alejandro Clocchiatti

Wednesday 26th of February 2020

Check up the Lunas Ranging Experiment set up by Apollo Astronauts back in the late 60s, early 70s.

and the McDonald Observatory page


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