HoMe PaGe

Horizon

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If the Earth were an airless world like the Moon, the above calculations would be accurate. However, Earth has an atmosphere of air, whose density and refractive index vary considerably depending on the temperature and pressure. This makes the air refract light to varying extents, affecting the appearance of the horizon. Usually, the density of the air just above the surface of the Earth is greater than its density at greater altitudes. This makes its refractive index greater near the surface than at higher altitudes, which causes light that is travelling roughly horizontally to be refracted downward. This makes the actual distance to the horizon greater than the distance calculated with geometrical formulas. With standard atmospheric conditions, the difference is about 8%. This changes the factor of 3. 57, in the metric formulas used above, to about 3. 86. For instance, if an observer is standing on seashore, with eyes 1,70 m above sea level, according to the simple geometrical formulas given above the horizon should be 4,7 km away. Actually, atmospheric refraction allows the observer to see 300 metres farther, moving the true horizon 5 km away from the observer.

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