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December 31, 2020

On Dec. 30, 1930, the First-Ever Photo of the Earth’s Curvature Was Taken

The first photograph ever made showing the division between the troposphere and the stratosphere and also the actual curvature of the Earth.

(Image: National Geographic/Albert William Stevens)

This photo was taken by Lieutenant Colonel Albert William Stevens, who was an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps and an aerial photographer. He also happened to be a balloonist, and he once broke a world record for a high-altitude balloon flight.

The image, taken from 72,395 feet above the surface of the Earth from a point approximately 35 miles south of Murdo, South Dakota, looks west towards the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Big Horn Mountains, and beyond. Notes rivers, mountains and some popular locations in the region.

He used infrared-sensitive film that worked well for long-distance aerial shots in which the subject was obscured by things like haze. The mountains he was photographing were more than 300 miles away, and he couldn’t see them with his own eyes. But his camera was sensitive enough! The photo was the first visual proof that our planet is, in fact, round.


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