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Night Vision Explained

Spy movies are often the first thing that comes to mind when people think about or discuss night vision technology. Do they actually work, or are they another form of moviemaking magic? In case you were wondering, the technology is very real and very effective. The standard set of night vision goggles will allow you to see a person standing 200 yards away on a cloudy, moonless night. Impressive, isnt it?

There are two different types of night vision technology. The first works on the principle of image enhancement. It works by collecting the minute amount of light contained in darkness, and amplifying it to the point where objects can be viewed. It even collects light from the lower end of the infrared light spectrum, which is generally imperceptible to the human eye.

The other way that night vision technology works is through a process known as thermal imaging. This process works by capturing the upper end of the infrared light spectrum. This part of the light spectrum is emitted in the form of heat, as opposed to light as we might recognize it. The warmer an object is the higher amount of this light is emitted.

There are some similar components in both night vision systems. Each of these systems is comprised of optics, some form of signal processing, and a viewing monitor. Image enhancement seems to be the prevailing technology contained in modern night vision systems. Both systems were developed, originally, for military use. In the United States, there are two classifications for night vision devices. The first is called MILSPEC, which refers to military specifications. The other is COMSPEC, which refers to commercial specifications.

This technology has been incorporated into a number of popular products, and put to use is many different ways. They are generally contained in three distinct categories; scopes, goggles, and cameras. Scopes are generally handheld or mounted on weapons, and are monocular. These are good for short-term viewing from a stationary position. Goggles are worn by the user and are binocular. As they are worn by the user, they are ideal for use over a longer period and during movement. Cameras are ideal for surveillance, as the images captured can be saved to a recording device or viewed on a remote monitor. This category also includes video imaging.

Night vision systems have come a long way since their early days of development. They are now used by law enforcement agencies and private investigators on a daily basis. They are also used by civilians for wildlife observation, security, surveillance, and personal entertainment. Night vision devices have become an integral part of the modern arsenal. Remember, not everything you see in the movies is make-believe.

This article was posted on November 14, 2005

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