During a full moon on a clear night, that little hunk of cheese in the sky seems almost touchable. You can just begin to make out its craters without a telescope. But in reality, the moon is tiny compared to the mighty planets that live so much farther away, often appearing as stars to the naked eye.
Ron Miller, a conceptual space artist and former art director at the National Air & Space Museum, had a brilliant idea. Since we all have the moon as a frame of reference, what if he were to swap in the various planets in the moon’s place? The incredible results are what you see here.
The source photo is Miller’s own, taken at Death Valley during the day, then Photoshopped to appear as night. From there, he scaled each planet as if it were being seen from 238,900 miles away. You’ll probably agree that even though Mercury is 1.45x larger than the moon, it’s almost indistinguishable in the night sky. But Saturn, at almost 35x the moon’s size, appears to be a gargantuan buzzsaw just moments from slicing our globe in half.
“The main liberty I took was to ignore the effect on Earth of having a very large planet nearby,” Miller tells me. “In the case of Jupiter, for instance, this would be devastating.”
Indeed. In such close proximity to the gas giant, Earth would likely find itself sucked right into Jupiter’s noxious hydrogen atmosphere. I imagine that we would be but a drop in the bucket, with nothing more than a purple ripple in our wake. And no qualified physicist can convince me of a fate any less poetic.