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Thermal Night Vision Basics

Every tactical shopper has heard of thermal imaging and its application but how much do you know about its function and history?

Thank you, Accidental Discoveries

Most awesome things were discovered by accident and thermal night vision makes no exception. After centuries of being limited by our awful night vision, a future of night time exploration and wonder was about to become a reality. Enter Sir William Herschel, the man who brought us the lovely name Uranus, discovered thermal imaging too.

In February, 1800, as he was testing filters that would allow him to see sunspots, Herchel, found that when using a red filter, a lot more heat was produced than in the visible spectrum. Further experimentation lead him to conclude that there is a form of light beyond the visible spectrum and that’s how thermal imaging was discovered.

How it works

While other night vision devices that work on an image intensifying principle require some ambient light in order to produce an image, thermal imaging night vision requires no light at all. Such devices operate on the principle that all objects emit infrared energy and the hotter the object, the more light it emits.

“You can choose between black and white or color thermal imagers” – FALSE

Which of the images below shows colored thermal imaging? Neither. What appears to be color is in fact an electronically generated image meant to help you distinguish between different temperatures. Thermal imagers, such as the ATN – Thor-320-1x allow you to switch from a black and white screen to a full color mode and overlay it with either a black, red, blue, white or black reticle depending on the conditions and the environment, sparing you the nightmare of having to distinguish between the black and white reticle and the black and white image.

 Thermal NV_IMG1

Their greatest asset, aside from requiring no ambient light, is that it functions correctly with obstructors like fog, haze or smoke as well.

Tactical and beyond

The most obvious use for thermal imaging is during military operations or hunting but the applications and benefits of this technology go way beyond that.

Outdoor enthusiasts can use thermal cameras to observe endangered species without frightening or disturbing them, campers or long-distance hikers can find their way and stay out of danger, especially when in an unfamiliar area but probably one of the most important uses of this technology is saving lives. Firefighters can use thermal cameras to identify the seat of a structure fire and the location of victims otherwise obscured by dense smoke.

Click here to see our selection of thermal imaging devices and enjoy our special offers and free gifts.

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