Space enthusiast, artist, and writer Ron Miller questions what the night sky would look like if the moon was replaced by one of our solar system’s planets. His collection of manipulated images station planets, from the relatively minute Mercury to the enormous Jupiter, in place of Earth’s moon. The simulated photos take into account the distance of the moon from Earth (approximately 240,000 miles) and re-imagine the natural satellite as its own celestial body.
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Mercury instead of the Moon
Mars instead of the moon
The red planet is almost exactly twice the size of the Moon, so it would appear twice as big in the Earth’s sky. It would be easy to see with the naked eye details on the surface of the planet that were previously visible only through telescopes. You could watch the ice caps grow and shrink during the changing seasons, see dust storms form and move across the planet and make out features like Vallis Marineris and Olympus Mons.
Venus instead of the Moon
Venus is three and a half times larger than the Moon. It would be nearly as large in our sky as the Earth appeared to the Apollo astronauts, when they were walking on the surface of the Moon. There wouldn’t be too much to see, other than vague swirling patterns in the dense, ivory-colored cloud cover. (We’re pretending, of course, that Venus would still have the same atmospheric conditions if it were in essentially the same orbit as the Earth.) It would be an amazingly bright object, however — much brighter than our moon. Not only does Venus reflect six times more light than the Moon, it covers an area 40 times larger… so the night skies would seem as bright as daylight.
Neptune instead of the Moon
Neptune is more than fourteen times larger than the Moon — and now we’re talking about something that would look really impressive. It would loom like an enormous blue balloon in the night sky. And dominate the daytime sky, as well. All other things being equal, an eclipse of the sun would seem to last forever. Once the sun disappeared behind the edge of the “moon” earth would be plunged into darkness for over an hour and half.
Uranus instead of the Moon
Uranus, which is nearly the same size as Neptune, would provide a very similar view.
Saturn instead of the Moon
Saturn would be an astonishing sight. Almost 35 times larger than the Moon, this golden globe would cover nearly 18 degrees of the sky. We’d be a little further away from Saturn than its satellite Dione. In fact, we’d be more likely to be a satellite of Saturn ourselves than the other way around. The rings would stretch nearly from horizon to horizon.
Jupiter instead of the Moon
Jupiter would trump them all. Forty times larger than the Moon, Jupiter would stretch 20 degrees across the sky. It would also look a little different from the telescopic and spacecraft photos we’re used to seeing. This close, we’d be looking “up” at the northern hemisphere and “down” at the southern hemisphere, so the cloud bands would be distinctly curved in perspective. In fact, we’d not be able to see the north and south poles of the planet.
To visualize Jupiter taking the place of our Moon, we really have to use our imaginations. Since we’d be about the same distance from Jupiter as its satellite Io, the earth would be subject to the same tidal stresses caused by Jupiter’s immense gravitation. We might have a much more volcanic-looking landscape around us. There might also be little evidence for life since we’d also be in the midst of Jupiter’s deadly radiation field. But as I said at the beginning, we have to make some allowances for imagination!
by Ron Miller via io9.com