MAY 31, 2017 9:12 AM PDT

Where Does Space Start and the Earth's Atmosphere End?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard


And so the debate rages on: where does the Earth's atmosphere actually end, and outer space begin? There are a lot of answers to that question, and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly who's right.

The official standard for the start of outer space is the Karman Line, which is 62.1 miles above the Earth's surface. This is the Federation Aeronautique Internationale's officially-accepted starting point for space.

Interestingly however, the International Space Station exists above the Karman Line. But that's where things get tricky. The Earth's atmosphere extends far beyond that of the International Space Station; the Thermosphere goes up as high as 621 miles above the Earth's surface, and then the Exosphere goes up as high as 118,000 miles above the Earth's surface.

While there is no perfectly definable point where the Earth's atmosphere magically turns into outer space, one way to look at it is that the atmosphere continues to get thinner the higher up you go up, and eventually, you hit a spot where you're not protected by the Earth's atmosphere anymore.

Nevertheless, the Karman Line is the "official" standard used for where space begins, love it or hate it.

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 17, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 17, 2019
Want a Cozy Fireplace on Your Screen? How About This One with Chemistry Trivia?
Have you ever wondered: underneath the evident smoky smell, what makes up other subtle aromas of a burning fire log?  A diverse group of aromatic (in...
JAN 08, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 08, 2020
Cancer Death Rates Declining in U.S., According to New Report
In the United States, the death rate from cancer has declined, according to a new report released today by the American Cancer Society. The video below sum...
JAN 23, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 23, 2020
Yes, Stress Can Turn Your Hair Gray
Stress and gray hair have always been closely associated, and now, scientists from Harvard have discovered the physiological mechanism that validates this...
JAN 26, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 26, 2020
The Life of an Arctic Squirrel
There is no overstating the fact that the Arctic Tundra is a cold and unforgiving place. There are few plants or animals that can survive in this extremely...
FEB 16, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 16, 2020
Drone Footage Shows a Hungry Blue Whale Lunging At Krill
Blue whales are the largest living mammals on Earth, capable of growing as long as three full-length school busses. As you might come to expect, large anim...
FEB 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 16, 2020
Just How Powerful is a Piece of Space Debris?
One of the most commonly discussed topics in space science today is the space junk problem, in which space junk collides with objects to create space debri...
Loading Comments...