The Last Thing We'd See If Saturn Got Close Enough To Destroy The Earth

Over the weekend, Saturn got as close to the Earth as it will get this year—but it's still 1.3 billion kilometers away. But what if Saturn somehow left its orbit and paid us a very close visit? It would look pretty stunning before it destroyed our home planet.

Animator yeti dynamics, also known as Nick, has given us animations that imagine the moon as it would look if it orbited Earth from the distance of the International Space Station and if it were a mirrored disco ball. Here, he gives us a striking view of a Saturn flyby, showing the relative size and brightness of the gas giant at different distances, as well as how the Earth's shadow would fall on Saturn and how Saturn would eventually eclipse the sun.

Improbable as this event is, it's fascinating to see Saturn and its moons at different distances. Over at Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait notes that if Saturn were as far away from the Earth as Mars is, it would be about as bright as the full moon, with planets disk appearing to be roughly one-quarter the size of the moon and its rings appearing to be two-thirds the moon's size. Visually, the video deliberately ignores the effect of Saturn's gravity on the Earth; as breathtaking as the sight is, things on Earth itself wouldn't look so pretty.

[via Bad Astronomy via Geekosystem]