Horizon

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The horizon is the apparent line that separates earth from sky, the line that divides all visible directions into two categories: those that intersect the Earth's surface, and those that do not. At many locations, the true horizon is obscured by trees, buildings, mountains, etc., and the resulting intersection of earth and sky is called the visible horizon. When looking at a sea from a shore, the part of the sea closest to the horizon is called the offing. The word horizon derives from the Greek "ὁρίζων κύκλος" (horizōn kyklos), "separating circle",[1] from the verb "ὁρίζω" (horizō), "to divide, to separate",[2] and that from "ὅρος" (oros), "boundary, landmark".[3]

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Appearance and usage

Historically, the distance to the visible horizon at sea has been extremely important as it represented the maximum range of communication and vision before the development of the radio and the telegraph. Even today, when flying an aircraft under Visual Flight Rules, a technique called attitude flying is used to control the aircraft, where the pilot uses the visual relationship between the aircraft's nose and the horizon to control the aircraft. A pilot can also retain his or her spatial orientation by referring to the horizon.

In many contexts, especially perspective drawing, the curvature of the earth is typically disregarded and the horizon is considered the theoretical line to which points on any horizontal plane converge (when projected onto the picture plane) as their distance from the observer increases. For observers near the ground the difference between this geometrical horizon (which assumes a perfectly flat, infinite ground plane) and the true horizon (which assumes a spherical Earth surface) is typically imperceptibly small.

In astronomy the horizon is the horizontal plane through (the eyes of) the observer. It is the fundamental plane of the horizontal coordinate system, the locus of points that have an altitude of zero degrees. While similar in ways to the geometrical horizon, in this context a horizon may be considered to be a plane in space, rather than a line on a picture plane.

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