Imagine the sun sets, and instead of the Moon, you see the stunning rings of Saturn above your head. Sounds dreamy? Saturn replacing our Moon might sound like a picturesque idea, but will we even survive if that actually happens? Let’s take you on an astrophlic journey to find out what will happen if other planets replace our Moon.
Mercury, with its dark grey surface and asteroid craters, would resemble our Moon. Mercury has dorsa and highlands resembling the Moon. It has a mean radius of 2,439.7 km, whereas Earth has a mean radius of 6,371.0 km. This implies that the planet is 38% the size of Earth. We can say Mercury, of all the planets in our Solar System, would be the most secure replacement for our Moon.
Venus is the brightest planet in our Solar System. It would be 60% brighter than the Moon. We might never see darkness with Venus in our night sky. Our proximity to Venus is a matter of perspective. The planet is almost as large as our Earth. So, if Venus replaces our Moon, it would also force the Earth into a binary system.
Two astronomical bodies are close enough together in a binary system that their gravitational attraction causes them to orbit each other around a barycenter. Take Pluto and its moon Charon as an example. So if our moon is replaced by Venus, then Venus and Earth will rotate around each other and eventually collide.
It would be quite a sight to see the red planet in our night sky. The surface planet would glow red due to the presence of iron oxide. Because the red planet is near twice the size of the Moon, it would appear twice as large in the Earth’s sky. Due to its larger surface area, it would reflect more sunlight at night.
This will increase the brightness of our evening hours by four times. It will also cast an orange hue across our planet. We can also witness an increase in volcanic activity and tectonic plate shifting. With Mars replacing our Moon, we can witness features such as Vallis Marineris and Olympus Mons just with a telescope.
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. This gas giant is 11 times the size of Earth. So it could take up a large portion of the sky if it replaces our Moon. Because Jupiter is so massive, the side of the Earth closest to Jupiter will feel a stronger gravitational pull than the opposite side. The Earth’s shape would distort as a result. Further, we’d be roughly the same distance from Jupiter as its satellite Io. Due to this, we’d be subject to the same tidal stresses. Jupiter weighs 317 times more than Earth. Therefore, we can expect the barycenter to shift from within Earth to within Jupiter. This will drastically alter Earth’s orbit. Earth would no longer be a planet. We’d be Jupiter’s moon instead.
Saturn is indeed an astronomical marvel. Its mass is nearly 100 times that of Earth. Therefore, it has a massive gravitational pull. A large object like Earth approaching a much larger one like Saturn is a perfect recipe for ultimate disaster. And gravity plays the role of salt in this recipe.
Due to Saturn’s extreme gravitational pull, Earth’s tides would be thousands of times stronger than those due to the Moon’s gravitational attraction. Fault lines would rupture, volcanoes would erupt, and anything left on the Earth’s surface would be wiped out. Saturn is so massive that the Earth would quickly become its moon like it would in the case of Jupiter.
Uranus and Neptune
Uranus and Neptune are often called twin planets due to their massive similarities with each other. Both of them are about 4 times larger than our Earth. However, these blue ice giants are 14 to 15 times the size of the Moon. Therefore their impact on the Earth’s rotation and tidal systems would be drastic. Houses would have to be built on cliffs, far away from the reach of massive waves. These twin planets would loom over the night sky like massive blue balloons.
The Moon is Critical to Life
Other planets replacing our moon might sound amazing, but that will not be favoring our existence in most cases. Our Moon surely contributes a lot to the existence of life on Earth. Taking out the moon and replacing it with any other planet will have an impact on our ecosystem as well as every other aspect of our lives. Good or bad, it doesn’t harm the astrophile in us to imagine going to bed watching the ‘Eye of Jupiter.’ Here’s a video for you to visualize this article better.