Back in January, the Russian space agency Roscosmos released a video showing what it might look like if our star, the Sun, was replaced by different stars or planets. A couple of weeks ago, the agency released a follow-up video showing what the night sky might look like if some celestial bodies were much closer to us than they are. In short, it would be beautiful.
So to give this video some scale, the nearest star to our solar system (aside from the Sun, that is), is the triple star system Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri A and B orbit quite closely together such that, to the naked eye, they look like one star. Their companion is the comparatively dimmer Proxima Centauri. And they’re far away; the binary pair is about 4.37 light years from the Earth and Proxima Centauri is slightly closer, lying 4.24 light years away. Bringing any objects into sharp focus in the night sky is bringing them tens of trillions of miles closer.
First up is the Andromeda Galaxy, our Milky Way galaxy’s nearest neighbor that sits some 2.3 million light years away. To the naked eye, this galaxy containing 1 trillion stars spanning about 220,000 light years looks like a smudge a little larger than the full Moon.
Next is the Ring Nebula, a 6,000-year-old nebula about 1 light year across that really sits about 2,000 light years from our planet. Then comes the Crab Nebula, the 5-light year-wide remnant of a supernova that blew up in 1054. In reality, it sits some 6,500 light years from Earth.
The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules is beautifully positioned with a monument to Yuri Gagarin in the foreground, so it looks like the first man in space is striving to reach what astronomers consider to be the finest cluster in our night sky.
Over a busy highway, the video imagines a supernova star. The Whirlpool galaxy is shown interacting with NGC 5195, perhaps alluding to our own Milky Way galaxy’s collision course with Andromeda. The Pleiades is also brought up close in our night sky, a cluster of seven stars that can be seen by just about every inhabited part of our planet.
The last image of the video is a pretty fantastic one, showing a black hole glowing bright in the daytime sky as gas and dust heats up around its event horizon.
Of course, beautiful as they may be, if any of those object were close enough be seeing detail in the night sky, the Earth probably wouldn’t exist. It’s a good thing they, and their strong gravitational pulls, are safely away from us.