Appearance and usage
View of the ocean with a ship near to the horizon
Historically, the distance to the visible horizon has long been vital to survival and successful navigation, especially at sea, because it determined an observer's maximum range of vision and thus of communication, with all the obvious consequences for safety and the transmission of information that this range implied. This importance lessened with the development of the radio and the telegraph, but 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 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 sea level 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 imperceptible to the naked eye (but for someone on a 1000-meter hill looking out to sea the true horizon will be about a degree below a horizontal line).
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.