The Physics
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Power of a Searchlight

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Projector, Theodore H. Searchlight. Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Online, 2009. "The development of large powerful searchlights, with 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter and carbon arcs consuming as much as 600 Kilowatts of power reached a peak in World War II." 600 kW
Radka, Larry. Searchlights in pictures and history (Part I). New York: The Einhorn Press, 2009. "The 6000 pound projector operated on a current of 200 amperes and consumed 10 kilowatts of power." 10kW
Norris, A. "Alternating Current on Shipboard." Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers. Vol. 24, (1912): 109. "All searchlights of the Navy are operated on the power circuit and require about 125 ampères at 60 volts." 7500 W
Searchlight Rentals. K.E.C. Party Rentals, 2009. "Our searchlight is equipped with a 220 volt to 110 volt adapter for 2000 watt operation .Select between 2 power settings. The lower level setting will allow you to use of the searchlight at a 2000 watt output (20 amps @ 110VAC plugs into your outlet) for display requirements up to three mile beam visibility." 2000 W
Houston, Edwin James. Electricity in Every-day life, Volume Two. New York: Collier, 1905: 228. "The 9-inch projector takes a current of 10 ampères, and requires a pressure of from 43 to 46 volts between the carbons." 430 W-460 W

Searchlights have been used for many years before World War I in lighthouses, and that was the main purpose that they served. However as more powerful searchlights were invented, searchlights moved from being an aid in warfare to a symbol of entertainment.

Searchlights project high-intensity beams over long distances by using a lens and a reflective surface creating parallel rays. In 1915 E. A. Sperry the carbon arc light which is a high intensity searchlight; and in 1916 Thomas Edison made the searchlight portable and hence led the way to the searchlight in warfare.

From 1917 on, the searchlight was used as in warfare, where it would be used to spot and stop enemies ships and planes or even throw them off their course. After World Wars I and II the searchlight is used in many entertainment events and memorial services. This however has brought has stirred a lot of sentiments among energy conservationist and light pollution activist. Searchlights use more than 60,000 W of power in one source and can completely obscure a stargazer's view.

Tonie McKenzie -- 2009