Climate change occurs when adjustments in the Earth’s climate systems result in new weather patterns that can last for millions of years. One part of this process is the atmosphere, the layer of gases that are held in place by gravity and keeps the sun’s heat in and the radiation out. In 2003, NASA called for the world to take action and cut back on the number of greenhouse gasses being produced, in a report that revealed the upper atmosphere is thinning.
However, Professor Brian Cox went one step further to get a first-hand look at just how shocking these effects are.
During the filming of the BBC’s “Wonders of the Solar System,” the presenter visited Thunder City – an aircraft operating and maintenance company based in Cape Town International Airport.
He said in 2013: “I’ve come to Cape Town in South Africa to do something I have always wanted to do.
“I’m about to fly incredibly high, to the very edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.
That really is the thin blue line that protects us, so fragile and so tenuous – just a tiny sliver of blue – amazing
“From here, I’m hoping to see something that only a handful of people have ever seen – the thin blue line – the fragile strip of gas that surrounds our whole planet.
“And this is what is going to take me there – the English Electric Lightning – the most beautiful fighter aircraft ever built.”
Dr Cox then explained how the plane uses a vertical take-off to allow it to get to such heights, before climbing in.
He added: “The Lightning is no longer in service but, this piece of magnificently overpowered engineering, it is going to take me 18km (11 miles) straight up.
“My journey will take me beyond almost all the molecules of gas that make up our atmosphere.
“To get there, I’m going to experience what made the Lightning famous – a vertical take-off.”
Dr Cox was then jetted up to 60,000ft, where he was stunned by the thickness of the atmosphere protecting us.
He continued: “We’ve reached 58,000 feet and 90 percent of the atmosphere is below me.
“The only people above me are on the space station.
“I’m now at 60,000 feet, 18 kilometres up – the highest you can go.
“Above me, the sky is a deep, dark blue and that is what I’ve come to see – our atmosphere.
“That really is the thin blue line that protects us, so fragile and so tenuous – just a tiny sliver of blue – amazing.”
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