An unreal picture of sunset at the north pole

By Phil Plait | November 17, 2011 7:00 am

Every few months, like clockwork, someone sends me an email telling me about a lovely picture they’ve seen. This photo, it’s claimed, shows a sunset at the north pole with the crescent Moon looming hugely over the horizon. Perhaps you’ve seen it via email or a social network; the picture really is stunning, as you can see for yourself:

It is pretty, isn’t it? But it has one teeny tiny problem: It’s not a photograph! It’s a drawing, called “Hideaway”, created by Inga Nielsen. It’s a really, really good drawing, beautifully done, so realistic it can fool people into thinking it’s a photo. I’ve seen people thinking so on bulletin boards for years, and in fact it just popped up again, this time on Google+. And, as usual, a lot of folks thought it was real.

I can’t blame them, since it’s photo-realistic, as many digital drawings are these days. And if you see this without attribution to the artist, and don’t know the astronomy behind the scene, it’s hard to say whether it’s real or not.

So how can I tell it’s a drawing? Ah. Glad you asked.

 


Size does matter

Right away, the size of the Moon in the picture compared to the size of the Sun is a dead giveaway this isn’t a real photograph. In the real sky, the Moon and Sun appear to be the same size.

The angular size of an object — that is, how big it looks in the sky — depends on its physical size and its distance. Things look bigger the closer they are, and if two objects are at the same distance, the physically bigger one will look bigger. There’s some simple math that governs this: the angular size of an object is actually its diameter divided by its distance. So let’s do the math for the Sun and Moon:

Moon size / Moon distance = 3474 km / 384,000 km = 0.00905

 

Sun size / Sun distance = 1.4 million km / 150 million km = 0.0093

 

As you can see, the two ratios are almost exactly the same! The Sun is about 400 times bigger than the Moon, but it’s also 400 times farther away. Because of that, they appear to be the same size to our eye.

But in the original picture, the Moon is about 20x bigger than the Sun! So again, right away we know this image must not be real.

In fact, the Moon and Sun being the same apparent size is why we can have such beautiful solar eclipses. If the Moon were so much larger than the Sun as depicted in the drawing, we’d never see the Sun’s ghostly corona during an eclipse; the huge Moon would block it completely. And when you look at partial solar eclipses, like the one shown here, you can see from the silhouette of the Moon’s limb that it and the Sun are roughly the same size.

Therefore, the image is not actually a photograph of the sunset at the North Pole.

But wait, there’s more!

 


Like night and day

In the drawing, you can see the Sun above the horizon, so it’s technically daytime. The Moon can be visible during the day — it’s a common misconception that it’s only up at night — but that’s not really the issue. The real trouble is how hard the thin crescent Moon is to spot when it’s daytime. It’s incredibly difficult, but the drawing shows it clear as, well, day.

It’s actually so tricky to see the Moon this thin that there is an informal competition among astronomers to spot it; it takes a keen eye and some pretty good equipment to see it at all!

In the drawing, the Moon is so close to the Sun that there’s simply no way you’d be able to see it that crisply and cleanly. It would take a telescope at the very least to pick the Moon’s light out from the bright sky, and then you wouldn’t see the other things in the drawing like the Sun or the landscape.

Also, note that off to the right there are stars depicted in the sky! During the day, stars are simply not possible to see in a photograph like this. That’s another alarm bell that this isn’t real.

 


I got an angle

Another, more subtle, aspect of this drawing is the angle of the Moon, Sun, and horizon. The Moon orbits the Earth while the Earth orbits the Sun, and the way the geometry of these orbits works out makes it so that the path the Moon appears to take across the sky is pretty close to the path the Sun takes. If you were to mark the position of the Sun in the sky every hour or so, and connect them to make an arc across the sky, you’d find the Moon follows roughly the same path*.

However, at the north pole (or up at very high latitudes) the Sun never gets very high above the horizon. The path it takes is low, making a shallow angle with respect to the horizon. And remember, the Moon’s path is similar. Yet, in the drawing, we see the Moon above the Sun, the line connecting them perpendicular to the horizon. In reality, the crescent Moon this close to the Sun would be swung over to the side, and not above the Sun. In the image here, note how the crescent is almost vertical, not horizontal. That’s because at the latitude of the photographer the path of the Moon and Sun in the sky intersects the horizon at a relatively shallow angle. At the north pole, this is far closer to what you’d see as the moon sets. Minus the city lights!

This again shows the drawing isn’t a real photograph.

 


Hideaway

It’s funny, too: sure, I can point out all the physical characteristics that give away the fact that this isn’t an actual photo… but also, when I look at it, I can just tell it’s not real. It has that feel of a digitally created image; the way the landscape looks, the reflections in the water, the way the sky is so perfectly smooth. Those aren’t really quantitative or physical bits of evidence, but I’ve learned to trust my senses when I see something that my instincts tell me isn’t real, and to look into it further. Sometimes that instinct is wrong, of course, which is why I don’t just jump to a conclusion based on it! But it’s a good way to start an investigation. Call it my spidey sense.

But in this case we do have more to go on! The comparative sizes of the Moon and Sun, the angle between them, the clarity of the lunar crescent: they all point to this being a clever and lovely drawing, and not a photo of a boreal scene. It’s also clear, from Ms. Nielsen’s site hosting the drawing, that she never intended it to be thought of that way; she has a caption which (translated from German) says, “A place you can escape to, if times get too stressful…”. That makes me think this is supposed to be an alien landscape, a large, nearby moon as seen from a terrestrial planet orbiting another star, someplace light years away.

I love work like this (my friend Dan Durda is another gifted space artist)! It shows us places we cannot yet visit, places we cannot yet see, and shows us what they might look like were we to stand there. It inspires us, lifts us, and sparks our imagination.

And the best part? A place like this might actually exist! While we can never see something like this on Earth, there’s no physical reason why another planet couldn’t have something similar to this sight draped across its sky once every month, as its moon and star near each other in the sky (assuming the moon is icy, making it more reflective and easier to see than our own Moon). There are almost certainly hundreds of billions of planets in our galaxy alone, and if even a tiny fraction of them are like our own world, there could hundreds of millions of Earth-like planets out there in the black. Moons are common, too, and water is everywhere. And if the planet is near some very luminous stars, they might be visible even during the daytime. The basic ingredients for this scene exist in our galaxy, and probably in abundance.

Sometimes, life really does imitate art. When that art is based on science, all we just need to do is keep looking, and eventually we’ll find the reality to match it.

Credits: Hideaway: Inga Nielsen; eclipse: Graham Parker; thin Moon: Thierry Legault; Moon set: Ed Yourdon.

 


The units for this are in radians, where a radian is about 57°. It’s a unit based on the mathematical constant π, which is a fascinating story in itself. I’ll have to write that up sometime. But for this calculation here, the specific unit doesn’t matter, since we’re comparing two numbers with the same units.

 


* In reality the Moon’s path is tilted with respect to the Sun’s path by about 5°, but that’s small enough not to worry about for this argument.

 

 


Related posts:

- Record breaker: newest new Moon spotted!(Note: this may not be an actual record, but it does depict a very thin crescent Moon)
- The Beauty of Space
- All these worlds are yours… (Dan Durda’s artwork)
- Why does the Moon look so huge on the horizon?

 

Comments (54)

Links to this Post

  1. This x That - The Daily What | November 17, 2011
  1. Dragonchild

    Actually, the scene strikes me as what the Titan sky might look like if the moon had its thick atmosphere stripped off. Small sun, reflection off a cold hydrocarbon lake, cold dark landscape in the distance. . . The crescent would be Saturn itself, tho there’s a problem in that there’s no way the rings wouldn’t be visible in some way from that angle. The relative sizes might also be off. Ironically, the scene might not be incredible enough!

  2. Gary

    Besides all that, the island terrain is too crisp and the water ripples look unnatural.

  3. CR

    I swear this pic already got discussed here last year or so… maybe it was on another blog. I thought there had been a link to Ms Nielsen’s site, too. (Or maybe it was to an art page, like DeviantArt or something… I remember seeing a pic of the artist there. Sorry about not having the link; it was on my old, dead computer.)
    Pretty picture, in spite of the analytical breakdown… but then I never once thought it was real for many of the various reasons posted. By the way, I never noticed that there were stars in the pic; now that they’ve been pointed out, they’re clear as day. (Yes, I know Phil already used that line, but it fits…)

  4. Messier Tidy Upper

    @1. Dragonchild : Good thinking. Maybe that’s a view from Titan when our Sun has become a red giant several billions of years hence – stripping away Titans atmosphere, melting some of its ice and boiling and blowing away its rings ?

    Or could it be Pluto as seen from Charon or Charon from Pluto in that same aeons further into the future era under a Red or Orange giant Sun?

    Or one third option – could we be seeing (well imagining anyhow) a terraformed *Luna* with Earth in that sky instead? Perhaps those two daylight-visible “stars” are nearby large space stations seen from afar orbiting Earth, Moon or one around each. In which case that object thought to be the “Sun” there might just be a lunar light post on a pole with the pole hidden in a mist brought into an airless world by comets and human ingenuity? 8)

    ****

    “But out of the whirlwind came a silent bird from the stars, a symbol of our ability to work with nature, to use our intelligence and within the limitations of our world, to do great things.”
    - David Levy on witnessing the 4th landing of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Page 28, ‘Astronomy’ magazine October 1982.

  5. My first thought was that the “moon” was orbiting REALLY close to the Earth. Wouldn’t any “planetary-ish” size object visually that big in the sky have to be in a really tight orbit?

  6. I’m pretty sure that’s not a digital painting but an environment created using 3D software. There are a number of subtle things that give it away as 3D (like there are a number of things that give it away as not real) such as the fidelity of the ripples, the feeling of the way the light diffuses across the image and the shape of the terrain.

  7. alfaniner

    I’m not sure “drawing” is the right word? Digital painting, computer generated image, rendering, yes. But drawing implies a line drawing.

  8. Great as always Phil. Just one tiny nit pic- the Moon can be a tiny crescent passing north of the Sun at the time of New Moon phase. It won’t be as huge as the rendering above, but for the same reason we don’t have solar eclipses every month; the Moon passes well north (or south) of the Sun every month. As a matter of fact, the image by Thierry Legault you use to illustrate the faintness of the Moon during daylight was recorded due to this very fact.

  9. Messier Tidy Upper

    Or could it be Pluto as seen from Charon or Charon from Pluto in that same aeons further into the future era under a Red or Orange giant Sun?

    Which would probably make the two “stars” in the sky there Nyx and Hydra with P4 below the horizon. Pluto’s rings if it has them as possibly thought will have been vapourised and driven away by our Sun’s Red Giant glare.

    Anyone know or care to calculate whether the apparent size of Pluto from Charon or vice-versa actually matches the apparent sizes as depicted here?

  10. Casey

    One more flaw: if the moon were that close to the sun in the sky, there wouldn’t be a crescent at all.

    (I suppose it would work if the moon were in fact very close to the earth, in which case the phase angle would cause a shadow closer to that seen in the photo. Of course, then the sea wouldn’t be so calm, given the massive tectonic upheaval due to tidal effects.)

  11. Off topic : According to the Curiosity (ex-MSL) rover’s countdown clock (click on my name to view) there’s exactly one (seven-day) week, zero hours and zero seconds until its (scheduled) launch ..
    N-n-n- Now! ;-)

    EDIT : D’oh! Would you believe an 8 day week? No? Okay, sorry, I’m waay too tired and stuffed up here. Sorry. (Blushes.)

    Make that 7 days 53 min 33 secs.

  12. Chris

    Actually reminds me of another Bad Astronomy moment. In the Heroes episode “The eclipse” they showed the sun about to undergo an eclipse but the moon was clearly visible and half full! There were many other problems in that episode/series, but that one stuck out.

  13. Astrogarden

    Also a more prosaic proof. Not at the North Pole. There appears to be mountainous land in the image and the North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean so would be either ice/snow or water or some combination depending on time of year and extent of warming.

  14. John F

    I thought it was a photo, but I thought the “sun” wasn’t the sun, but rather a spotlight on a much closer helicopter or something…

    oh well

  15. Chris A.

    I have to agree with Sean–there’s no reason why the moon can’t be due north (or south) of the sun. Given that the moon and sun appear way different in angular size (which was the biggest giveaway to me in this picture), how can one determine the proper image scale (do we treat the tiny sun as 0.5 degrees wide or the giant moon)?

    Some years ago, I began to wonder about whether one could break the record for seeing the newest/oldest moon by viewing from a place near the poles (where the ecliptic can be parallel to the horizon) when new moon happened to fall near its maximum of ecliptic latitude (a bit over 5 degrees), and thus would appear due north (or south) of the sun.

    Unfortunately, since the record for newest moon seen is around 18 hours (when the moon would be about 9 degrees from the sun), it seems unlikely that one could see it when it is nearly half that distance. Then again, the sun’s glare should be minimized somewhat by the lack of moisture in arctic air, so…

  16. MatthewVGreene

    Um….. The easiest way to tell that the pic is CG is that there is no land at the North Pole, ice yes, land no.

  17. Chris A.:

    Some years ago, I began to wonder about whether one could break the record for seeing the newest/oldest moon by viewing from a place near the poles (where the ecliptic can be parallel to the horizon) when new moon happened to fall near its maximum of ecliptic latitude (a bit over 5 degrees), and thus would appear due north (or south) of the sun.

    Sounds like the start of a good idea. However, I would suggest that you would want the Moon as far “below” the Sun as possible, giving the greatest angle even at the exact moment of “new moon”. (ie: from the North Pole, you want the Moon as far south as possible.)

    Okay, I’m sure I could do the math, but I’m too lazy at the moment… If there were a solar eclipse exactly at the equator at noon, how many degrees “off” would the Moon be from the Sun at one of the poles?

  18. That was a fascinating read, thanks Phil.

    Regarding the apparent sizes of the Moon/Sun due to their distances, isn’t that a unique feature of our relationships to our Moon and the Sun? That is to say, during a total eclipse, our moon makes a more or less perfect lid over the Sun. I don’t believe this relationship exists anywhere else in our Solar System at least, does it?

  19. Justin:

    Regarding the apparent sizes of the Moon/Sun due to their distances, isn’t that a unique feature of our relationships to our Moon and the Sun?

    I believe you are correct concerning the moons in our solar system. While other moons do, in fact, cause solar eclipses on other planets (I remember seeing images of moons casting shadows on their host planet, perhaps even on this blog), the “almost exactly the same apparent size” is unique as I understand it. (In this planetary system, anyway. We have no way of knowing how many planets in other systems have their moons in the Goldilocks zone.)

    Search images.google.com for “moon casting shadows on other planets” (w/o the quotes)

  20. abadidea

    I know it’s fake because Skyrim has TWO moons.

  21. johannes

    not a drawing but a render made with terragen a terrain generator

  22. I think the thing that makes your spidey sense tingle when viewing this picture, Phil, is its composition. It’s very deliberately crafted to draw your eye to the center of the image which, while pleasing to look at, will strike us as unnatural (not that images like this don’t exist in nature, but their occurrence is rare) . Just my thought anyway.

  23. The tides on that version of Earth must be INSANE!!!

  24. Ryan

    Also, this could be a picture from the earths past, 4 billion years ago could it not? Wasn’t the moon much, much closer then?

  25. Spunk-Monkey

    My first thought was that the digital artist did a great job with the atmospheric haze. There are some good choices in color and tone, with some subtle attention where the renderer tends to blend differently than natural light works. The rest not so much, and it looks like a digital rendering (wave dynamics, surface illumination, ground looks procedurally generated, focal depth, lens artifacts, etc). If it was from one of my students, i’d give it a B+.

  26. The only physically sound explanation for the too thick and overly visible crescent: the planet and it’s moon are orbiting a binary star system and the second, much brighter, star has already set.

  27. Note that the fact that the moon and sun look to be about the same size was used by astronomers before the modern era to estimate approximate distances and sizes of objects in the solar system since it means that one has a pair of similar triangles.

  28. katwagner

    It looks like someone shot a model – none of it looks real. To me anyway. The waves don’t look big enough to be real up against the shore, the moon isn’t real and the sun looks like a mini maglight with waxed paper on it.

  29. I did a rough estimate and it looks like you’d need to be at a point about 25000km from the Moon to get that size ratio (Moon about 15x the size of the Sun). So, you might be able to get a similar shot on your way to the Moon …but without all the scenery.

  30. -jeffB

    There’s another “physically sound explanation” for the crescent’s prominence: the atmosphere is much less dense than ours, scattering less light, and thus making celestial objects appear relatively brighter.

  31. Mark Hansen

    First thing I thought was “Where’s the monolith?”

  32. also the sun’s reflection is far more intense than the full-on image of the sun

  33. ShawnN

    This is an image in a gallery of digital landscape art made using a 3d landscape program called Terragen, and some photoshop editing. the link to the rest of the gallery of Terragen images is at the top right. Anyone curious about making digital landscapes can google Terragen, (or: Vue from e-on software, Cararra or Bryce at Daz 3d.)

  34. Steve Metzler

    Speaking of photo-realistic imagery… check out the wallpapers at Digital Blasphemy:

    digitalblasphemy.com

    Shameless plug: Ryan Bliss is a very accomplished digital artist who has been crafting this stuff since the 90′s, and his work only gets better as time goes by. I pay a small price annually to download his wallpapers, and this is not spam as I am a regular here. The man is a master of the digital medium.

  35. Are the ratios correct for Charon from pluto?

  36. Oceans of liquid water… at the North Pole? At this time???

    EDIT: Surface liquids, of course.

  37. Valdis Kletnieks

    Every time I see a really cool picture like this with a huge moon/planet in the sky, I wonder to myself if something is inside some other something’s Roche limit and about to become a ring, which would make an even more awesome picture….

  38. Smitty

    @Mark Hansen #31,

    Me too. I found this image ages ago and used it as the wallpaper from my media player. I’m stoked to find the high(er) res picture.

    @Messier Tidy Upper,

    If you look close, you can see eight “stars.” Three on the left and Five on the right. Perhaps it could be an imagining of the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ family picture as seen from the Pluto/Charon binary?

  39. KimS

    It’s now all over Pinterest, explaining how rare this occurrence is, taken when the moon is closest to the earth etc etc. It’s worse than that Photoshop that got touted as a castle in Dublin.

  40. @#4 MTU: Maybe that’s a view from Titan when our Sun has become a red giant several billions of years hence – stripping away Titans atmosphere, melting some of its ice and boiling and blowing away its rings ?

    Or could it be Pluto as seen from Charon or Charon from Pluto in that same aeons further into the future era under a Red or Orange giant Sun?

    Or one third option – could we be seeing (well imagining anyhow) a terraformed *Luna* with Earth in that sky instead? Perhaps those two daylight-visible “stars” are nearby large space stations seen from afar orbiting Earth, Moon or one around each. In which case that object thought to be the “Sun” there might just be a lunar light post on a pole with the pole hidden in a mist brought into an airless world by comets and human ingenuity? 8)

    I find your ideas intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  41. @#30 JeffB.
    I tend to disagree. Firstly: the crescent is still not by far thin enough with regards to the angular separation between the moon and the star (taking into account the fact that the Sun should be at least somewhere in the order of a thousand times farther away than the moon, thus rendering it’s rays practically perpendicular).

    Secondly, you’re right that the atmosphere seems to be a lot thinner than ours indeed, in which case the orange color of the sunlight isn’t caused by the atmosphere, but by the spectral type of the star itself. Then the light reflected off the moon, should most probably have an orange tinge as well, which it hasn’t. Both facts lead me to the conclusion that the moon is lit by a second, much brighter and ‘whiter’ star which is below the horizon from our point of view.

    In reality, if we’re dealing with a real 3D model here, the star and moon have probably been rendered separately and were combined using photoshop, or the light source representing the Sun has not been placed sufficiently far away in the 3D-space, so a larger part of the moon’s surface is lit by its rays.

  42. Pete

    This is silly. At the poles, a line drawn across the moon that connects the terminator ends runs perpendicular to the horizon. At the equator, it’s parallel.

    Argh, that’s not a good job of describing it, but the “smile” should be on its side.

  43. Sam H

    @31: Not my first thought but good point! :)

    @42: My own explanation for this – this view is from offshore one of the islands of an equatorial archipelago on an Earthlike planet of Alpha Centauri A, with the primary having already set and Centauri B shining on the Horizon, its orange K-class tint obvious at such a low angle and light level. The moon is not a moon nor a mammoth space station, but the smaller body of a double-planet system similar to Pluto and Charon, with our view being on the slightly larger node.

    As well, that planet also has it’s own theme song:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKwK-ZhTurg

    ^this also relates to an idea I have for one of the planets in an epic SF novel I currently have in my head. There would be a double planet orbiting the A component of 70 Ophiuchi (known as Ophiuchus Alpha and Beta, respective to size), separated by at least 50000 km. Alpha would be about 1.6 times the size of Earth and uninhabitable due to its 50% 2 atm CO2 atmosphere (but containing valuable minerals, hence the extensive mining), whereas Beta would be a mostly arid world of approximately Earth-size with small oceans, various ecosystems and an atmosphere that is unbreathable (10% CO2), but at a pressure similar to mid-high mountain ranges, being the base of mining operations on Alpha and supporting a population of at least 100 million Ophiuchans. ^I actually just drew up most of these details on the spot :) , but one detail I already had firmly set was that there would be an advanced space elevator directly connecting the two worlds, and both would retain their sphericity. Even given the technology of the 39th century, would such a thing be possible? How much would they move/librate relative to each other?

  44. MadScientist

    That’s funny, when I saw the picture I thought “how could anyone think this is real?” One of my favorite Antarctic photos by a friend was a Jeweled Necklace – a time lapse photo of the sun before, during, and after midnight.

  45. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ MadScientist : Yeah. I certainly thought this image looked obviously fake (CGI?) soon as I saw it.

    @44. Sam H : Cool idea – I’ll definitely buy your novel when it comes out! :-)

    @41. Joseph G : Aw shucks. Thanks. If I had a newsletter I’d certainly love to have you as a subscriber to it. :-)

  46. @44. Sam H : Oh & did I forget to say – please write your 70 Ophiuchi novel? I did? Well I’m saying it now! ;-)

    Btw one minor nit :

    There would be a double planet orbiting the A component of 70 Ophiuchi (known as Ophiuchus Alpha and Beta, respective to size),

    I’m not sure that works because Alpha and Beta are the Bayer nmae designations for stars as you may already know – Alpha Ophiuchi is the white giant (A5 III) type star also known as Rasalhague with Beta Ophiuchi being a pulsating orange giant (K2 III) star.

    As Kaler notes (article linked to my name here) the component stars get tagged A & B (upper case) and presumably by current convention the hypothetical planet(s) would get lower case letters b, c, d, e, etc .. Which, of course, would change once Humans live on them as worlds but I doubt that they’d use ‘Alpha’ and Beta’ for them.

    For Whatever little Its Worth, My suggestion for planet names – & naturally its ultimately entirely up to you – would be to use some of the astronomers who once suspected third planets (presently unconfirmed at best, refuted outright at worst) existed in the 70 Ophiuchi system. To quote from an article I wrote years ago :

    The controversy began in 1842 with J.H. Madler the first to note deviation from Keplerian motion. (Robert Burnham Jnr., 1978.) One of the earliest report on these suspected dark companions caused a kerfuffle leading the collapse of the career of one of the participants. Excitement reached a peak in 1899, when American astronomer T.J.J. See proclaimed that; ” .. certain apparent irregularities in the orbital motion of .. 70 Ophiuchi were explained by the companion having a massive dark satellite moving about it in a 36-year period.” (Ashbrook,1984.) This report was attacked by a mathematical astronomer named Moulton in a paper which showed that such a system would be highly unstable and could not exist. Consequently See ” .. wrote an ill-considered letter to the Astronomical Journal that led to his life-long disbarment as a contributor.” (Ashbrook,1984.) This affair was a major factor in the destruction of See’s life, he later suffered a nervous breakdown, and his eventual fate was to remain trapped until his death in the ruins of his career. (Ashbrook, 1984.)
    This episode was not the end of the speculation over a third component to Seventy Ophiuchi for since Madler’s initial finding many others – including W.S. Jacob in 1855 and T. Lewis in 1906 have reported anomalies in the orbit. Despite attempts to cast doubt on the measurements by Dr Strand in 1937 this puzzle refuses to die. A study of astrometric plates carried out in 1943 revealed “.. indications of a 17-year perturbation with an amplitude of about 0.015″; the mass of the assumed third body would be about 1% of the solar mass. At present it can only be said that more observations are needed to settle the question …” (Burnham, 1978.) My most recent information on this debate is that as of 1991 it was observed that “the presence of a third body in the system is suspected, possibly a planet about ten times Jupiter’s mass, but the unseen planet’s existence has not yet been confirmed.” (Motz & Nathanson, 1991.) Perhaps this is one mystery we may see resolved soon given the new revelations on extrasolar planets discovered around 51 Pegasi et al.

    Thus I’d like to suggest using the names See and Madler for the binary components although See and Strand (with Madler an outer gas giant or gas dwarf perhaps?) has a certain poetic appeal to it too! ;-)

    Sources : (as cited in brackets in non-italicised quote.)

    Motz, Lloyd & Nathanson, Carol, ‘Constellations’, Aurum Press, 1991.
    Dole, Stephen, ‘Habitable Planets for Man’, Rand Corporation, 1964.
    Burnham, Robert Jnr., ‘Burnham’s Celestial Handbook’, Dover publications,1978.
    Ashbrook, Joseph, ‘The Astronomical Scrapbook’</i., Sky Publishing & Cambridge University Press, 1984.

  47. Oz

    Here’s another reason why that’s a fake piccie….if that satellite was “moon sized” and appeared that close to it’s primary, the tidal forces being exerted on both bodies would be enormous. Enough to make that water there hot enough to be boiling and the atmosphere would be full of noxious volcanic gases, so you’d never see that vista to begin with. In any case, the tides on that planet would mean that you’d be looking at the tops of those mountain peaks as the tides would not be measured in metres, but kilometres. To really put the icing on that cake, that satellite would most likely be a pile of orbiting rubble as it would be within the Roche Limit of the larger planet. So you’d have all sorts of debris crashing down onto the surface…not a very nice place to be taking a peek at a vista like this!!!.

  48. Mirko

    The moody sky looks so damn familiar. It’s the edge of the lunar umbra. First time I saw it was when the sun rose over the moon’s limb, ending totality of the Dec 4, 2002 eclipse as seen from the Australian desert.

  49. slw

    My immediate reaction to this picture would be that it’s not the Sun, but rather an artificial light. A Sky Lantern would fit the bill. Closer inspection of course reveals that this is a digitally composed image, rather than a photograph.

  50. Greg

    Picture looks very fake if you are familiar at all with 3D renderings. This looks like it was made with Bryce 5 circa 2002.

  51. DataBass

    Yes, I realize it is not a photograph of a real scene…
    But, Damn! It Sure Looks Pretty!

  52. James

    Also, the orange glow at the bottom makes no sense given where the sun is.

  53. CharonPDX

    So I’m curious, is this about what a sunset would look like from Pluto or Charon? (Where the crescent is the other of the pair.) Obviously without the ocean…

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