Guest post by Carlos: What's the most interesting bit of the Solar System?

Thanks to Carlos for this post in the most interesting guest series: when you've finished, read this post too, write a post of your own and send it to me so I can post it here!

Interesting question, and one that made me realise something: any part of the Solar System is interesting, but the question here is one of the representation – the meanings – of objects in our minds; that is where the question lies. In a way, to argue what the most interesting object in the Solar System is is to argue which means something special, unique to you. And, to me, that is Venus.

Venus, named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, deserves the name. Find a picture of it on the Internet, and you'll marvel at the calours and patterns, which never fail to remind me of a glass marble. But, as befits such beauty, there is more to it than meets the eye: craters scar the (invisible from space) surface, the result of intense vulcanic activity, and the beautiful colours are caused by a dense and poisonous atmosphere, leaden with carbon dioxide and topped up with clouds of sulfuric acid. Despite the fact that it orbits around the Sun further away than Mercury, the temperature at Venus' surface is actually higher, thanks to the greenhouse effect. Venus is, in short, a pretty nasty place – a barren wasteland, incapable of sustaining life as we know it.

And herein lies its importance for me. A good science teacher once explained to my class, many years ago, that Venus was actually pretty similar to the Earth in size and mass, but that we didn't stand a chance to go there because of the extreme conditions. She also used the fact that it is warmer than Mercury to explain the concept of CO2- induced warming on a planetary scale. An easily-impressed 10-or-so year old, interested in environmental questions, filled in the mental gaps and had a vision of an Earth made uninhabitable by pollution, complete with acid rain and catastrophic global warming – a DIY Venus we were all contributing to. And that was that, to this day.

It also helps that Venus is the shiniest speck in the night sky (besides the odd jet weezing about), and that Bananarama jokes are five-a-penny. But, to me, Venus symbolises the potential of a good metaphor to get a difficult point across.

What do you think is the most interesting thing in our solar system? Write me a guest post explaining what and why, and I'll host it here: I want to hear from YOU. I'll post everyone's under the tag 'most interesting', and you can read the original post here.


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