When did humans figure out how high the atmosphere goes?
I am watching a movie from the 1930's, and the universal studios logo has the entire earth in front of clouds. I also remember seeing a looney-tons episode where a character was flung into the stratosphere, and again the earth isa small dot surrounded by clouds and blue sky. When did people realize the atmosphere is only a thin blue line?
- nineteenthlyLv 76 months ago
Evangelista Torricelli discovered that the atmosphere was "an ocean of air" in the early seventeenth century. In the 1930s, it was a common stylistic device to depict a planet with an atmosphere as having clouds in front of it. I've seen it in illustrations from books published during that decade. It wasn't that they didn't know so much as it being artistic licence.
- Old Man DirtLv 76 months ago
It was known that our air did not extend out all the way to the sun. But into the twentieth century it was believe some gas filled outer space. The word either was chosen for the it because either (heavenly gas) was that substance that filled the space between the earth and the sun (and all of outer space) because it was felt that heat from the sun could not get to the earth with out the void being filled.
Just were or atmosphere ends and space begins is still a subject of debate.
- RaymondLv 76 months ago
The Greek philosophers from two thousand years ago had an idea that the atmosphere did not extend all the way into space. "Shooting stars" -- they called them "meteors" from a word that meant high-up -- were thought to be in the atmosphere (which happens to be true) while the stars and planets were thought to be beyond the atmosphere.
They did not have any proof (not what we would call "proof" in modern science) but they were quite confident.
When the barometer was invented (1640s), it was quickly shown that the atmospheric pressure went down as the observer went up in altitude. It was somewhat easy to calculate that the atmospheric pressure would drop to zero (the start of space) at some altitude above sea level. This altitude was insignificant compare to the estimated distance to the Moon (they already knew the Earth's atmosphere did not go all the way to the Moon).
The more accurate limits were calculated in the 18th century (using Newton's calculus and more precise measurements of how fast the atmospheric pressure decreased with altitude). 18th century = the 1700s
When it became possible to take radar distances to meteor, it was possible to establish the extent of Earth's atmosphere quite accurately (before the space program).
When Sergei Koroliof launched the first Sputnik (1957), he already knew how far the atmosphere extended, and how much air was still up there, at the altitude of Sputnik 1 (he knew it would eventually fall back due to air resistance). It was 0.01% of what it was at Earth's surface.
At the altitude of the International space station (400 km = 250 US miles), there is just enough air left to slow down the space station, so that it needs to be boosted back up every once in a while.
- 6 months ago
Scientists realized hundreds of years ago that the atmosphere gets thinner with height, the implication being that a vacuum would result about a hundred miles or so up.
"People" tend to be scientifically illiterate (not their fault, survival is the primary concern), and I dare say that most still have no idea. Movies and cartoons must position themselves at the level of the "people".
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- daniel gLv 76 months ago
This almost goes back to the old question why is the sky blue.
Back to the 1400s it was estimated by the sunrise and set by the lighting of the atmosphere.
Early aviation, airplanes could only fly so high.
As science progressed we discovered the gas and matter content and by calculating pressure, fine tuned that.
Stratification, we later divided that into 5 main layers. USGS, NOAA and NASA research, we have added to the complexity.
- StarryskyLv 76 months ago
A 1930s movie about high flying aircraft and a guy in an early pressure suit was pretty good at explaining about the stratosphere.
Torricelli and his barometer was an 18th Century invention. People took one up into high mountains and noted the pressure drop. From that and understanding of Boyle's ideal gas law let scientists know about limits to the atmosphere.
- Ronald 7Lv 76 months ago
Once Humans went into Space
- billrussell42Lv 76 months ago
Way before the 1930's. You can't cite movies as scientific evidence.