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How the Sky Would Look If the Planets Were as Close to Us as the Moon

Apr 4, 2013 By Abraham

If the planets in our solar system were only 240,000 miles from earth like the moon is, a whole lot more would change than simply how the sky looks, but as a fun little exercise space enthusiast Ron Miller imagined it…

Unaltered photo of the moon…

If Mercury were where the moon is…







(via My Modern Met)


  1. paula says:

    Aww, poor little Pluto. If you’re comparing moons to planets, why not make a point of showing everyone how small and moon-like Pluto is?

    1. dholyer says:

      Besides Pulto now becoming a member of the Ort cloud of rubble surrounding our solar system. Even 2x or 4xing the images, where are the planetary rings around Uranus and Neptune. Even Pioneer 10 & 11 in the early 80′s could detect those objects. Both did on Uranus and Pioneer 11 did on Neptune. Pinoneer 10 could not because it never approached the planet. Remember there was space probes before Voyager 1 & 2 or in Star Trek terms “V ger”

      1. Kenneth Hicks says:

        I think should’ve included all the moons around Jupiter and Saturn.

        That first Star Trek movie was worse than the Plato episode with Spock and Kirk jumping around “I’m Tweedle Dumb he’s Tweedle Dee”

        1. Barry Haworth says:

          The moons might be there, but not visible. Don’t forget that Earth’s moon is 384,000 km from Earth, while the Jovian moons are further out – Io is 422,000 km and the other big moons further away.

      2. Rafael says:

        Wait, Pluto is not part of the Oort cloud. The Oort cloud is a hypothetical region of the Solar System quite far away from Pluto. Pluto is a trans-Neptunian object and the largest of the Kuiper belt objects.

      1. Rafael says:

        There are no photos of Pluto. Not anything better than a blur, at least. So it’s kind of hard to have Pluto in this comparison, even if we still called it a planet.

  2. Josh says:

    Cool idea… not very accurate.

    ~3300 miles of the moon’s surface is visible from earth.

    Jupiter’s total circumference is about 279,120 miles. Divided in half (visible side), that’s 139,560 – thus, Jupiter in the sky (at it’s zenith) would be 42-43x larger than the moon. Just based off of that alone, this picture wouldn’t be big enough to show the edges of the planet. Now, that’s also assuming “distance” is measured from equator to equator, that the two planet’s equators line up and that the viewer’s vantage point is at earth’s equator.

    1. musicartgeek says:

      I think when you have an object as large as Jupiter, as close as the moon, then the lens characteristics also come into play? I agree it looks smaller than I would have thought.

  3. Josh says:

    Actually, I just double checked my facts because something didn’t sound right – we can’t see 50% of the moon, only 40-42% (~2700 miles). That make Jupiter 51-52x larger than the moon in the sky.

    1. Kujo says:

      You have to work with the arctangent, not fractions of the circumference. But even then, I compute the ratio to be 40x (based on 1738km radius for the moon, 71490 radius for Jupiter, and 384400 distance to the moon.) Since the image looks to be more like 32x, I agree it looks too small. Is there some other factor we’re missing?

      As for gravity, Jupiter will exert 2500x the moon’s pull on things at earth’s surface. When Jupiter is directly “above” you, I compute you’d weigh 17% less than when Jupiter is directly “below” you. I think we’d have far worse problems than just the increased height of the tides!

      1. Tom Hudson says:

        What we’re missing is that the sizing in the images assumes that the planet’s SURFACE is the same distance as the moon’s surface. So, the distance to the horizon plane of Jupiter, for example, isn’t 384400, but rather 38440+71490 = 142980. That gives an angular diameter that’s 34x that of the moon. Likewise, Saturn is 29x and its E ring is 66x.

        1. jesus is life says:


      2. dhruv says:

        If Jupiter were to be there in place of the moon, then the earth would have revolved around the Jupiter not the Sun, lol

          1. Mark says:

            Volcanic Activity would be another sure bet. If anything would make Yellowstone pop its cork, this would.

    2. Alan says:

      When scientist measure the distance from the earth to the planets, do they measure from axis to axis, or surface to surface?
      In response to Josh – why would you use circumference of the planet rather than the diameter? Seems to me that it would be easier.

      1. Norm from GA says:

        They use the distance between axes (or centers), not surfaces, usually. Simplifies a lot of the math involving their orbits.

        Likewise, radii and diameters are rational, and can be measured exactly.

        Circumferences are products of rational numbers, such as radii, diameters, or ordinal numbers, and an irrational number, pi, thus becoming an irrational number that cannot never be measured exactly.

      2. Norm from GA says:

        Ordinarily I would have used that answer on April 1st, but April 15th is equally appropriate for “creative math.”

    3. Kris says:

      There is a small portion of society who thinks and the rest are good at other things. I agree it is a cool idea but my calculation was 40x as well which, for Jupiter at least, is not depicted accurately in this picture. The guy who made this probably could have included the sun and many people would just share it on Facebook like it was a fact.

  4. Corban says:

    Given that the mass of Jupiter is 25,847% greater than the mass of the moon, we wouldn’t care about the view because the gravitational pull would mess up our tides and cause massive flooding.

    1. Jordan says:

      Who cares about the tides Jupiter will pull the whole earth into it and it would blow up before it even reaches the surface.

      1. KDC says:

        Finally, someone gets it.

        Once you get to the extra-asteroidal planets, they would tear the planet apart by proximity….if in fact they could sit off the Earth at the same distance, which I don’t think they would…….I think we’d wind up inside Jupiter, certainly our atmosphere would get sucked off.

    1. David says:

      Thank you, and to the rest of the “Big Bang Theory” characters-in-real-life who have to get all scientific with “accurate” measurements and stuff….lighten up, Francis!! It’s called “Imagination”.

      1. Jombi the Djinni says:

        I think that you have a distorted view of the world if you’re referencing real humans to sitcom characters instead of the other way around.

      1. Karyn says:

        Thank you for that picture of Jupiter, I’ve saved it into my Phone. It made
        Me feel very happy. If that was the last thing I saw before the earth got sucked into Jupiter and exploded and we all died, I would be happy that was my last memory. Very very cool.

  5. adameros says:

    I do have one problem with one of the images. If Saturn were as close to the earth as the moon is, we would be in the E Ring. The average radius of the moons orbit is ~385,000km. The E-Ring has a radius of ~483,000km. This means on top of all the meteor showers, the outer ring would fully span the sky from horizon to horizon.

  6. Rob Leslie says:

    Holy smoke critics, just chill out.

    This is awesome. Keep your lame incorrect scientific theories to yourself and just enjoy that someone put this together. If you’re so smart put your own together and then when a bunch of know it all grodies start slamming your work maybe then you’ll take some consideration into what it actually takes to do something instead of just typing miserable comments on your likely grotesque cheap oversized plastic laptops with food stains and AMD stickers all over it.

    1. Kenneth Hicks says:

      Gee, how about if you chill out. If you enjoy the images, fine. I think it’s incredible that someone would put that together. I also think it’s incredible to see scientific minds at work. Just a reminder that they aren’t accurate images, just flights of fancy. Take it easy. Have fun with all aspects or just pass by the ones you don’t like.

    2. Phil Ward says:

      Firstly, no scientifically minded person uses ‘theories’ in that context. Plus, one of the wonderful things about science , in fact, one of the best things about being human is discussion! No matter how insane.

      Try hating less and loving more, you’ll find it will make you less angry unless (as I suspect) you’re 13. In which case give it 6 or 7 years!

  7. Warner Brown says:

    I love the Saturn one. But if Saturn was that close to Earth, the blue sky would be almost white, or much lighter. We would have hell of a lot of meteor activity too lol.

    1. Tom1969ca says:

      Depending on which website you read, the original Death Star was 120-160 km in diameter; therefore it would be approximately 4.5% the size of the moon, or about three pixels in the original picture! At the distance of the moon’s orbit it would probably look similar to what a low-Earth-orbit satellite looks like – just a dot amongst the stars.

      Until it started shooting…

  8. Josiah says:

    While the images are amazing, they are (aside from venus) incorrect. This is because they do not take into account the luminescence that each planet has. The moon reflects the light from the sun onto Earth, which explains why a night of a full moon has high visibility when compared to a crescent or new moon. The sheer size of these planets, (say, uranus, saturn and jupiter) would reflect so much light to the Earth’s surface that there might as well not BE a nighttime.

  9. Sasha says:

    What’s with all the science bashing ITT?
    Since when was it a bad thing for intelligent human minds to exercise that intelligence?
    Thankyou very much to the few who posted their take on the inaccurate scale. For a picture claiming to be how the sky would look if planets were the same distance as the moon (surface to surface, as it seems) I would expect the pictures to actually represent what they are trying to indicate.

  10. musicartgeek says:

    I could be wrong, but it seems like the reference photo was taken with a very wide lens, with the moon at the (relatively undistorted) sweet spot. With the Jovian planets, especially Jupiter and Saturn, it seems like they are taken with a longer fl – my intuition is that Jupiter should be distorted far wider than it is? Any optical experts out there to help me on this?

  11. musicartgeek says:

    The diameter of Jupiter is (I think) about 40 times that of the moon – but that disregards the apparent size given the optics of lensing. Point is, I would have intuitively thought Jupiter would have filled the frame far more.

  12. John says:

    Not very accurate. The photos of Jupiter and Saturn should also depict earthquakes and huge tidal waves ravaging Earth because of the immense effect of those planets’ gravity.

  13. mel says:

    if Jupiter’s is red spot can easily housed 2-3 earths, then wouldn’t Jupiter just totally block your whole view? so that picture isn’t scaled correctly? Al l we should be seeing in front of us is that red spot?

  14. Robby says:

    Great idea, but it would be good if it were accurate! (Though probably would not convey the idea as well.)

    I haven’t checked the accuracy, but the photo of Jupiter at http://i.imgur.com/ykpIHgE.jpg is intriguing as another possibility of how things would look.

    Jupiter is roughly 87,000 miles across, while the Moon is roughly about 2,200. So, let’s say, 40x as big. You could probably work this with a much larger field of view. Or, how about putting the outer planets where Venus is?!! The Evening Star getting replaced by Saturn with rings that span even more of the sky than Jupiter does.

  15. Robby says:

    Oh, I should add that the choice of a lonely road, in twilight, heading to the distance was a brilliant choice for this!

    Now, to open up another can of worms, the Moon always looks larger than it is, especially low in the sky!

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