An incredible video shows what we would see if the planets replaced the moon. But that would turn Earth into a volcanic hellscape.

saturn moon sky earth

Yeti Dynamics

Saturn's rings would make it seem huge in the sky.

You're not going to wake up one morning to see Jupiter hanging in the sky, but two stunning animations show what it would look like if you did.

Amateur astronomer Nicholas Holmes makes videos about space on his Youtube channel, Yeti Dynamics. One of his creations, which has gone viral a few times since he published it in 2013, shows what it would look like if the planets in our solar system orbited Earth at the moon's distance.Advertisement

A second video depicts the same scenario - a parade of planets looming in the sky above a city street - as it would look at night.

"I wanted to see what it would look like," Holmes told Business Insider in an email. "My primary drive is to settle my own curiosity." 

So he took some video of the Huntsville, Alabama sky and swapped the moon for other planets using 3ds Max software. The animations below are the result.

If other planets replaced our moon...

Planetary scientist James O'Donoghue, who works at the Japanese space agency (JAXA), said the sizes of the planets in the video are accurate.

"I checked the math!" he tweeted in October.If you look closely in the video, you can spot Jupiter's four big moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. When Saturn takes its place, the moon Tethys glides past its rings.Advertisement

You might notice one planet missing from the video: Mercury. That's because it's barely larger than Earth's moon, with a 1,516-mile radius. Jupiter, on the other hand, is the largest planet in the solar system at 88,846 miles wide. Saturn appears even more dramatic because of its rings, which add 350,000 miles to its diameter.

Holmes also made a nighttime version of the scenario. This video shows the rings around Uranus. Saturn's moon Dione also makes an appearance, orbiting Saturn at about the same distance as our moon. Of course, that means Dione would likely collide with Earth in the scenario depicted in the animation.


Holmes also suggested a DIY way to roughly recreate the sizes these planets would appear if they hung in the sky at the moon's distance.

"A simple demonstration is to hold out a dime at arms length. That's about the diameter of the moon," Holmes said. "If you hold out a dinner plate, that's about the size of Jupiter. Maybe it doesn't take up the 'entire sky' but it's pretty darn big."

If big planets like Jupiter were close to Earth, that would lead to volcanic destruction


jupiter io

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

The moon Io floats above the cloudtops of Jupiter in this image captured January 1, 2001.

Not everything in Holmes videos is accurate, however.

First, the amount of sunlight shining on the planets is "slightly off from reality," he said, in order to make details more clear. Additionally, the planets aren't tilted to exactly the right degree and they aren't rotating at the correct speeds.

Of course, if the planets got that close to Earth, the whole scene wouldn't proceed as calmly as it appears in Holmes's video.Advertisement

If Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune appeared in the moon's place, Earth itself would become one of that planet's moons. To see what that would mean for us, we just have to look at Jupiter's moon Io.

io jupiter moon

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Io, the most volcanic body in the solar system, is seen in the highest resolution obtained to date by NASA's Galileo spacecraft.

Tidal forces from Jupiter stretch and compress Io - a similar process to the way our own moon makes the ocean tides on Earth (which change by up to 60 feet). But Jupiter's huge mass stretches and compresses Io so much that its rock surface bulges back and forth by up to 330 feet.Advertisement

Two of Jupiter's other moons, Ganymede and Europa, also contribute to the tug-of-war with their own gravitational pulls on Io.

All that tugging heats up the tiny moon and builds pressure in the hot liquid below its surface, leading to volcanic eruptions so powerful that lava shoots directly into space. The tidal forces make Io the most volcanically active body in the solar system.

"We could expect a similar scenario on Earth. Initially, Earth's mantle and crust would be gravitationally attracted to Jupiter and break apart like crème brûlée," O'Donoghue told Business Insider in an email. "Volcanic activity on Earth would be the stuff of a disaster movie, and overall, Jupiter would make light work of Earth."Advertisement