Horizon

The horizon is the apparent line that separates the surface of a celestial body from its sky when viewed from the perspective of an observer on or near the surface of the relevant body. This line divides all viewing directions based on whether it intersects the relevant body's surface or not.

A High desert horizon at sunset, California, USA

The true horizon is actually a theoretical line, which can only be observed to any degree of accuracy when it lies along a relatively smooth surface such as that of Earth's oceans. At many locations, this line is obscured by terrain, and on Earth it can also be obscured by life forms such as trees and/or human constructs such as buildings. The resulting intersection of such obstructions with the sky is called the visible horizon. On Earth, when looking at a sea from a shore, the part of the sea closest to the horizon is called the offing.[1]

As of 2021, nearly all humans who have ever lived have not personally observed the horizon of any celestial body other than Earth's horizon, with the only exceptions being those Apollo astronauts who have traveled to the Moon and have thus also observed the lunar horizon in addition to the terrestrial horizon. In addition the horizons of several other celestial bodies in the Solar System, especially Mars, have been filmed by uncrewed spacecraft launched from Earth. Except where noted, the remainder of this article will exclusively discuss Earth's horizon.

The true horizon surrounds the observer and it is typically assumed to be a circle, drawn on the surface of a perfectly spherical model of the Earth. Its center is below the observer and below sea level. Its distance from the observer varies from day to day due to atmospheric refraction, which is greatly affected by weather conditions. Also, the higher the observer's eyes are from sea level, the farther away the horizon is from the observer. For instance, in standard atmospheric conditions, for an observer with eye level above sea level by 1.70 metres (5 ft 7 in), the horizon is at a distance of about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi).[2] When observed from very high standpoints, such as a space station, the horizon is much farther away and it encompasses a much larger area of Earth's surface. In this case, the horizon would no longer be a perfect circle, not even a plane curve such as an ellipse, especially when the observer is above the equator, as the Earth's surface can be better modeled as an ellipsoid than as a sphere.