I’m thinking of doing a few of these kinds of posts, if people are into it: my favorite planet, my favorite moon, my favorite asteroid… that sort of thing. Today I’d like to tell you a little about Venus, my favorite planet in the Solar System and also the best chemistry teacher I’ve ever had.
Venus has been my favorite planet for a long time now. I used to say to people, “It’s because Venus has the most personality. It’s the personality of a serial killer, but still… so much personality!”
It’s true that Venus is excessively, unreasonably, incomprehensibly hostile toward life. I mean, all the planets are dangerous (even Earth is a dangerous place in its own ways), but if you ever go to Venus, Venus will try to kill you at least a dozen different ways before you touch the ground. And when your crushed and crispy remains do reach the ground, Venus will try to kill you again in at least a dozen more ways.
No other planet is so creative and so gleefully enthusiastic about murder. As a science fiction writer, one of my goals in life is to set a novel on Venus or a Venus-like planet, because no other setting makes for such a deadly antagonist.
But upon further reflection, I think there’s a better reason why Venus holds such a special place in my heart. I’ve done a lot of space-related research over the years. It’s all part of my ongoing quest to become a better science fiction writer. Venus was the first planet to really challenge me intellectually.
Why is Venus so deadly? In many ways, Venus is Earth’s twin. The two planets are about the same size, they have almost the same surface gravity, and their chemical compositions are similar. Venus is slightly closer to the Sun, but it’s still within our Solar System’s habitable zone. So what gives?
It was hard work getting the kind of answers I was looking for. Venus forced me to learn a lot of new things. In particular, I had to learn more about chemistry, a subject that I despised in school and had really hoped I could avoid. But in struggling to understand Venus’s sulfur chemistry, and later its carbon chemistry, I was rewarded not only with a deeper understanding of one planet but of how planets in general are put together, and how they each end up with their own distinct “personalities.”
Picking a favorite anything is obviously a subjective thing. For me, studying Venus was an eye-opening experience in ways I never would have expected. For that, I’m forever grateful to the planet Venus, and Venus will always be my favorite planet.
So what’s your favorite planet? If you say “Earth, because I live there,” I’m going to be a little disappointed. But whatever your favorite planet is, and whatever your reasons for that, please share in the comments below!