Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Where does the sky end?

A photo of a purple sky with stars and one streak of light over the spine of a hill.
Kevin Clifford
Associated Press File
A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009 in Vinton, California.

Where is the border between sky and space? What about between sky and land? And why we can't hold air? The answers to these questions are scientific but it turns out they’re also philosophical and a little bit mysterious! In this episode from 2020, we’re joined by anthropologist Hugh Raffles, an author and professor at The New School, and astronomer John O'Meara, chief scientist at theKeck Observatory. And we have special scoring by cellistZoë Keating.

Download our learning guides: PDF |Google Slide|Transcript

Ideas about where the sky ends and space begins depend on perspective--different scientists use different definitions. Astronomer John O'Meara helps walk us through the various ways to look at it. And while the boundary between sky and land certainly seems more firm, there are times when our experience of that dividing line can be deceiving.

We'll also learn about some of the things floating in the air around and above us--millions of insects we barely notice and didn't know anything about until the 1920s. Hugh Raffles details these discoveries in his bookInsectopedia, and shares some of the fascinating information with kids here. The music of cellist Zoë Keating infuses this episode. We commissioned her to score the episode to help give our listeners yet another way to experience a changing perspective. You can find more of her music here.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.

But Why is a project of Vermont Public.

vermont public logo