Monday, July 26

Where is the boundary between Earth and space? | Digital Trends Spanish

What is the boundary between Earth and space? The new era of space tourism opened by companies like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX, has revived an old debate about where exactly outer space begins. And there is no single answer.

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Strictly defined, “outer space” should be the place where it completely escapes from Earth’s atmosphere, that is, about 10,000 kilometers above sea level (about 6,210 miles). In this place, the atmosphere gives rise to the strongest and most violent solar winds. However, this definition would exclude the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits the Earth between 330 and 400 kilometers above sea level (about 205 and 250 miles).


Another way of approaching could be the Treaty on Outer Space, driven by the United States, the former Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. The instrument entered into force in January 1967 and has been signed and ratified by 110 countries. The document establishes that “outer space” is free for the exploration and use of humanity. “Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, may not be the object of national appropriation by claiming sovereignty, use or occupation, or in any other way,” the instrument states.

However, as the treaty sets no limits, the general consensus is that space begins where orbital dynamic forces become more important than aerodynamic forces. But where does this happen precisely?

United States / NASA: 80 kilometers

The United States Air Force, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration certify as astronauts pilots, specialists and civilians who exceed 80 kilometers in height (50 miles), 20 kilometers less than the Kármán Line. However, one is a limit that they recognize as such internationally.

Kármán line: 100 kilometers

Image of the Earth and the stratosphere

The most common definition to determine when the boundary between terrestrial space and outer space has been crossed is the Kármán Line. It is an imaginary boundary located 100 kilometers above sea level (62 miles). When this border is crossed, a spacecraft would need to reach an orbital speed to maintain its flight (about 10,900 km / h).

The frontier of space: 118 kilometers

In 2009, scientists at the University of Calgary designed a suprathermic ion imager, which set the limit at the place where the transition occurs between the gentle winds of the Earth’s atmosphere and the most violent flows of charged particles in space. According to these data, space begins at 118 kilometers (73 miles) above sea level.

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