What if we had a planet instead of a Moon?
Our moon is a pretty big object. It’s big enough to be a respectable planet in its own right, if it were orbiting the sun instead of the Earth. (Actually, it is orbiting the sun in a nearly perfectly circular orbit, that the Earth only slightly perturbs… but that’s a topic for another day.) The Moon is a quarter the diameter of the Earth. Only Pluto has a satellite that is larger, in proportion to the size of the planet it orbits.
But what if the Moon were size of Mars, instead? It would like the picture above. Check out how some of the other planets of the Solar System would look in our sky, if they took the Moon’s place.
At a distance of about 240,000 miles, the Moon occupies a space in the night sky about half a degree wide. By sheer coincidence, this is almost exactly the same size the sun appears, which is why we occasionally get total solar eclipses. (We don’t get a total eclipse every time the Moon passes in front of the sun because the Moon is sometimes a little closer to the Earth and sometimes a little further away, so it will cover more or less of the sun during any eclipse.)
But it’s interesting to imagine what the night sky might look like if one of the Solar System’s planets were to replace our moon. (We’d have to ignore things like tides and gravitation, but that’s the advantage of doing things in the mind’s eye.) So what would we see if we were to replace the moon with Mars? The red planet is almost exactly twice the size of the Moon, so it would appear twice as big in the Earth’s sky. It would be easy to see with the naked eye details on the surface of the planet that were previously visible only through telescopes. You could watch the ice caps grow and shrink during the changing seasons, see dust storms form and move across the planet and make out features like Vallis Marineris and Olympus Mons.