Computer Light Shield

If you are going to use a computer at night, you must shield the light from it.  An unshielded computer will instantly rob your night vision.  If there are other astronomers nearby, they may string you up too.

Rubylith is available at most art supplies and is the standard shield material.  Add some tape and you have an "instant" light shield.  The only drawback is that it is rather fragile, especially in the sometimes frigid temperatures we often find ourselves in.  Two layers is generally required to get decent light blockage.

About eight years ago, Dad and I built a screen with red Plexiglas.  It works very well, being about as dark as two layers of Rubylith.  No one around us has ever said anything about the light.  Do take care when setting up so that your computer is not directly facing another astronomer if possible.  After eight years of banging around, and moving to a smaller computer, I built a new shield.   The old shield was too heavy for this computer and kept tipping the screen back, it also had many battle scars making it tough to see what was in some areas.  This new shield will have a transport case to prevent the plexi from scuffs.

If you are in a high dew area, you may have to put a cardboard box over the computer to keep it dry.  Fortunately, Colorado is arid enough that dew is rarely an issue.  When it is, I just cover the keyboard with a towel when I'm not actively typing.

Check the Yellow Pages under "Plastic Sheet" to find a local supplier.  In Aug 08, colored Plexiglas was $6 a square foot.

A simple three-sided frame, with a back, holds the plexi in place and it won't blow, or fall, off at the most inopportune time.

A well shielded computer will preserve your night vision and keep others around you from being irritated.  That really annoying, bright blue power light gets covered with a lens cap or rag when I'm out at night.

Be sure to add a few vent holes to the frame to allow heat to escape.  Some heat needs to be retained to keep the LCD functional in cold temps.  If heat becomes an issue you could cut out part of the back.  I leave the plexi loose in the frame so it can be easily replaced should the need arise.

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