Astronomers and the Air Force Face Off Over Lasers

Astronomers are arguing with the Air Force over being allowed to use lasers pointed at the sky to adjust telescopes. The Air Force fears that satellites could be accidentally blinded while astronomers are concerned about missing significant heavenly observations.

Apparently quite a few key observatories use lasers to adjust telescope optics for atmospheric turbulence. Those same lasers can damage Earth-observing satellites and so regulations on their usage have been getting stricter and stricter over the years. Now astronomers have had enough. They are happy to consult with the Air Force each time they point a laser at the sky to make sure that a satellite isn't in the path, but it seems that the turnaround time is too long. I don't see why they don't just change it to a "We'll have your analysis delivered in less than 30 minutes or you can point your lasers wherever you want" rule. [New Scientist]