The nighttime is great for a bunch of things, like stargazing, dancing (it’s mostly too awkward to do in pure daylight, right?), bonfires and ghost stories. With the sun gone and darkness setting in, there’s a total mood and vibe to the night that can’t be beat. But you know what kinda puts a damper on it? Not being able to see. Humans’ inability to see as well at night can be a total pain — just ask anyone who has stubbed their toes getting out of bed to use the bathroom.
Being the oh-so-smart species that we are, scientists have developed a way to rectify this: night vision goggles. They are the perfect solution for pilots, soldiers, or anyone else who needs to see in the dark. They’re mostly used in the military and police force. There are some available for civilian use, though. If you’ve ever used them, you might have noticed something a little funky about them — they make everything green! Wondering what that’s all about? Keep reading to find out!
Why Do They Turn Everything Green?
Now that you know how they work, you’re still likely wondering why they make everything look green. Is it really necessary? It turns out, yes. This is because our eyes are more sensitive to green light than any other color. This allows us to see and recognize images better when they are bathed in green.
It is also easier on the eyes to stare at a green screen for longer periods of time than other colors. Therefore, it’s not a glitch or random effect that night vision goggles make everything green, but rather a deliberate design by manufacturers to help give the eye comfort — something we can always get behind.
A Brief History Lesson
Night vision goggles were first invented in Germany during World War II (sometime in the 1930s, to be more precise). They were a far cry from the goggle design we are familiar with today. These early models were fairly large, about 12 inches around, and required the user to wear a large supply pack on his back in order to give them power. Not exactly efficient, though they did enhance night vision.
During the Vietnam War, decades after their invention, night vision goggles dramatically improved. These newer models used existing light from the moon and stars, which they then intensified. The increased light allowed the wearer to see more of his or her surroundings.
Today, night vision goggles work by increasing the light of an object, no matter how little of it there actually is, so that our eyes can process the image. This is similar to earlier versions used by soldiers in the Vietnam War, except the newer technology extracts light directly from the object — not just the night sky. They’re able to do this because everything gives off some amount of light, even in total darkness. In some cases that light may be infrared, which the eye can’t see. But that’s not an issue for night vision goggles, which can process it so that we can view the image.
Wondering how good night vision goggles really are? Pretty gosh darn good. In fact, come current night vision goggles work so well that the wearer is able to see a person over 200 yards, (or 600 feet) away on a cloudy night, (which means there isn’t much, if any, light available to glean from the night sky)! Pretty cool, huh? The eyes are capable of incredible things, but sometimes manmade devices can make all the difference between making objects visible and invisible!