At some point in their lives, who hasn't looked up at the sky and gazed in wonder at Earth's closest companion? Hanging a dizzying 384,400 km (238, 606 miles) above us, the Moon has stood like a silent sentinel throughout our species' short existence. It has enticed some to visit and inspired others to look to the universe beyond. The Russian space agency Roscosmos recently released series of videos shot from the perspective of Earth, showing us what it would look like if other planets and stars took the place of our Moon and Sun.
In many ways the Moon has encouraged the most noble part of the human spirit, that which drives us to exploration and inspires us to push back the boundaries of human understanding. On the other hand, Roscosmos has taken a less philosophical view, recognizing that the moon is a massive rock in the sky that we've all just got a bit used to, and asks, what would it look like if it was something else?
NEW ATLAS NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT
Upgrade to a Plus subscription today, and read the site without ads.
It's just US$19 a year.UPGRADE NOW
Replacing the moon
This question has prompted some of the brightest minds working at Roscosmos (and we are thankful) to mock up a video showing what it would look like if our beloved Moon were to be replaced with various other planetary bodies cluttering up the solar system. Join us on a brief tour that highlights the majesty of our celestial neighbors.
The smallest planet in the solar system and only a little larger than Earth's moon, Mercury's crater-scarred presence in orbit would do little to change the character of the sky. Many people probably wouldn't even notice the difference.
While still small in the sky, at just over half the size of Earth its figure is instantly recognizable. We know that Mars was once host to liquid water much like our own planet, however some time in the distant past, the red planet lost most of its atmosphere, eventually leaving the planet the dry red wasteland that we know today.
In an effort to better understand what caused Mars to lose her atmosphere, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft recently entered orbit around the red planet, where it is preparing to unlock the secrets of the planet's demise.
Venus, an Earth-sized planet, looms larger. Its thick atmosphere hides a landscape scarred by impact craters and volcanic activity. The planet's inhospitable atmosphere is composed mostly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets, and is responsible for runaway greenhouse effects that produce temperatures of up to 480 ºC (900 ºF), making Venus extremely hostile to most forms of life.
While it is very unlikely that we will ever put boots on the ground, NASA is toying with the concept of sending a manned mission to the hellish planet by using blimp-like vehicles to suspend astronauts high in the planet's atmosphere.
Jupiter cuts an imposing figure, filling the sky and allowing the viewer to understand the truly gigantic nature of the planet. The Jovian gas giant could fit three Earths in its distinctive Great Red Spot alone, and has a mass of roughly 318 times that of our planet, making it unquestionably the most massive planetary body in our solar system.
Without doubt, the most majestic scenes in the video are provided by Roscosmos' representation of Saturn. The celestial body and its iconic ring system succeed in making you wish that our real Moon was just a little more fancy, invoking the image of a nightscape bathed in ring-light.
Why not change the Sun?
Roscosmos decided it wasn't enough to ruin the moon for us by showing us a life in which the sky is filled with Saturn's majestic rings. The space agency went one step further and changed the Sun. The Russian's most recent video replaces the center piece of our solar system with some of its better known cousins.
In this mock up, Alpha Centauri adorns the sky above Earth. It is a three star system, comprised of Proxima Centauri – the dimmest of the three stars and the closest to our planet besides the Sun at a distance of only 4.35 light years. The remainder of the system is made up of the imaginatively named stars Alpha Centauri A & B.
Polaris, or the North Star, has always been a focal point in the night sky, being so unerring and bright that it became a trusted point of navigation for those traveling by night. Taking the position of the Sun, the gargantuan star is roughly two thousand times brighter than our own star, dominating the skyline with its sheer mass and luminosity.
The image gallery has more mock ups of planets and stars in place of our Moon and Sun, as well as actual images of the astronomical objects depicted in the Roscosmos videos, for comparison.
You can check out the original Roscosmos videos below.
Source: TV Roskosmos