Night vision goggles are sometimes also called image intensifiers, since they take the tiny bit of light that is left in the otherwise dark surroundings, and use it to intensify the image enabling the user to see. Sometimes that light is infrared and not visible to the naked eye. So to answer the question proposed by this article, no night vision goggles don’t work in absolute darkness, however this does not present an issue for the user, and here is why.
When is it really pitch dark?
When we are outside, in what the naked eye would perceive as complete darkness, there is still enough light for the night vision goggles to work without a glitch. The secluded light from the starts or the moon is ever present even during the darkest nights. In nature there are rare locations where there is no usable light, perhaps bottom of a cave or other similar places where light cannot reach. However, considering that most objects in our surroundings above absolute zero body temperature emit infrared there is very little chance of you being in complete darkness, regardless of the location.
What can help enhance the power of night vision goggles?
If you want to be sure that you will be getting the best possible image quality, opting for models like Yukon – NV 1×24 Goggles is the perfect solution. These types of night vision goggles are equipped with multi-coated optics and high-resolution intensifiers along with a built in Pulse IR. The importance of an illuminator is that it can add infrared light to the surroundings enabling the night vision google user to obtain a better and sharper image quality in any type of conditions. However, it is important to keep in mind that the IRI has a limited range, so you cannot expect the same viewing distance one would get if there was enough natural light present. Still most high quality IRI are more than satisfactory for general use, while military and police forces have ever improving technology along with top of the line night vision goggles and illuminators.
What are the alternatives?
In some cases, for example for firefighters needing to see through smoke, thermal imaging is a more efficient option. Although it is not in a form of goggles, but rather a computer screen it still provides high quality imagery, by capturing the heat emitted from different living things or some objects. The thermal imaging system can work in complete absence of light solely on the heat signature of objects with an above absolute zero temperature. So the higher the temperature the clearer the image.
So we can conclude that night vision goggles, cannot work in absolute darkness, they do need a light source, be it a weak one. What we can do is obtain a model of goggles that has a built in IR or one that can be later mounted. This way we can avoid the situation in which we would be unable to see in the dark. For more detailed options, opting for thermal imaging can also be a great idea.