It's very common to see this view but in reality, our earth doesn't have that one. We only have one Moon orbiting around our Mother planet. In sci-fi movies what is this term commonly called? Most western movies some Japanese sci-fi anime includes that view.

For example in the 2009 science fiction film Avatar, you can see there is a planet seen in the sky:

3 images showing a large gas giant in the sky

It looked like Jupiter but the planet is Polyphemus.

Here's a promotional photo of the movie Avatar with a fantasy landscape view, where a planet is seen in the sky:

daytime shot with the planet in the background, shows 2 main characters in the foreground in the water

In the 2014 dieselpunk sci-fi movie Garm Wars: The Last Druid By Mamoru Oshii, we can also see one planet in the sky called "Gaia":

planet peeking behind clouds

The 1985 retro futuristic anime series Dirty Pair we also see the landscape of a futuristic city "Eleanor" where planets are also seen on the night cloudy sky, one is a large planet and one small planet are seen in the sky:

Eleanor City skyscape

Daytime view of the planets in the sky on Eleanor City

Damocles Tower Landscape With A Planets On A Daytime Sky

Why did the director or the creator put some planets like these in the sky like this?

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    I feel this is more for aesthetics
    – Ankit Sharma
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 6:11
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    In the Zorro computer animated series it always shows the Moon like it is very close to the Earth.
    – dean1957
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 18:48
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    Because it looks cool? Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 2:04
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    TVTropes ALERT! This page may provide you with some clues. Along with some 200 other pages you'll end up on... tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/… Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 12:31
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    You can get real pictures similar to this naturally on earth with telephoto setups. This stunning eclipse shot is a bold example, shot with a long lens and a teleconverter from 1.5 miles away. Some of Gary Hershorn's work is in this family as well. Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 0:25

5 Answers 5


The most direct answer to your question, is that the director thought it improved the visuals of his production.

Some of those directors will have put some thought into how to justify such a view in their sky and will come up with the exact placement and orbits that will allow such a view.

Other directors will just decide they want a particular view, and not care how such a view could realistically take place, or whether it would realistically be possible.

Both of these are perfectly valid choices, though a story with a more realistic or hard sci-fi setting should probably lean heavily towards a more physically realistic scene.


Your question could be interpreted as either:

  • Our Earth doesn't have a view like this. What is different about these planets that makes this view correct? The answer to this is simple. Earth is a planet, with a smaller orbiting moon. Both examples of inhabited "planets" you show here (Panora and Annwn) are smaller moons orbiting larger planets. You would expect, especially in the case of Pandora, orbiting a much larger gas-giant, to see this represented in the sky.

  • Or why do the writers and directors choose a situation like this for their stories? This is a little harder to have a distinct verifyable answer since it may vary from story to story. However it does provide a distinctly alien view to the world which adds to the aesthetic of a science fiction movie, much in the same way as Tatooine's two suns do so in Star Wars. Also, it simply looks pretty.

  • 27
    It's not that alien. For example, if you look at the Moon from Earth, the Moon looks rather small … because it is small compared to Earth. But if you look at Earth from the Moon, it looks much, much bigger … because it is much, much bigger. Jupiter has 11 times the diameter of Earth but is only twice as far away from Europa as Earth is from the Moon, so Jupiter would appear roughly 5 times bigger from Europa than Earth from the Moon. As mentioned in the answer, Pandora is also a moon orbiting a gas giant, so the gas giant would look … giant. Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 8:53
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    See here for an artist's rendering of what it might look like standing on the surface of Europa: europa.nasa.gov/resources/34/… Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 8:55
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    @OwenAyanami perhaps a clearly "different world" rather than "alien world" might be better wording?
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 11:42
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    Is there even a case where it would be possible to have a planet in the sky that big other than a tidally locked moon orbiting it? Wouldn't a world that close otherwise raise tides that would make it uninhabitable? Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 4:21
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    Since the moon seperates from the earth each year for about 3-5 centimeter [ which, in fact, causes the tides in the ocean ], shooting a movie about the jura age would actually display a giant moon in the skies
    – clockw0rk
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 10:24

The question asker obviously hasn't seen a lot of old science fiction movies and tv shows or they would have mentioned some other examples, as in Str Trek: The Motion Picture and on Rigel VII in "The Cage"/"Menagerie" in Star Trek: The Original Series.

I have seen many films where Earth's Moon looks vast as seen from Earth. Those films were shot with telephoto lenses to make the Moon look far larger than it would be seen with the naked eye.

And certainly viewers can suppose that some of the scenes showing worlds in the sky of alien worlds might be normal vision and some might be what you would see though telephoto lenses, thus making the worlds in the sky look much wider than they would with the naked eye.

I believe there was a question asking what would be the greatest angular diameter of another world seen from a habitable world. I think that was in the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange. And different answers gave different maximum angles - even the smallest being several times as wide as the Moon as seen from Earth.

Here are links to related Worldbuilding questions:


There's a great explination in the below video

Big things closer would be easier to see. It just so happens that everything near the Earth is far away for us to see.

  • 1
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    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 15:21
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    Thanks also for the answer, i have also seen this one but generally i can't gather much solid answers from this one Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 6:19

I can answer this for Avatar - the story takes place on a moon of the larger gas-giant planet - in this case the scales would be correct, as it would be if we were stood on Enceladus, we'd see Saturn in a similar way. No idea for other films though sorry, well other than aesthetics anyway.

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