The Planetary Black Sheep

“There is good evidence that Venus once had liquid water and a much thinner atmosphere, similar to Earth billions of years ago. But today the surface of Venus is dry as a bone, hot enough to melt lead, there are clouds of sulfuric acid that reach a hundred miles high and the air is so thick it’s like being 900 meters deep in the ocean. ” –Bill Nye                                                    

Toxic gases all around. Toxicity and only toxicity. I am a planet and sulphuric acid is my only friend. I feel like an aberration of nature. Such inhospitable environment. How can life ever flourish here?

My siblings are said to be much less hostile than I. Constant comparison makes my blood boil. No pun intended.

But let me tell you the truth. They just got lucky. All of us were formed from the same intergalactic clouds of dust and other particles. Where there is death, there is life. Our grandparent lived a life of opulence. It was a fitting end for her. In death, she exploded as a supernova. Full of brilliant light. Light that could blind anyone who dared to look at it. Think of stealing one little glance and the burst of iridescence would have been the last thing you’d have ever seen in your life. Violet. Blue. Yellow. Orange. Red. She almost created a cosmic rainbow in her last moments. Almost. She came with a bang. She went with a bang. Grandmother, you’ll be missed. But don’t fret. You will live on through us.

The stellar debris that she left behind in her wake, is what we’re made of. So you see, all my planetary siblings and I are fundamentally made of the same material. Same grandparent. Same DNA. We just reacted differently to the situations life put us through. Most of us came out with flying colours, while I came out as a villain. I am clothed by a layer of toxic gases. The roof above reflects the vilest of colours. So dark. So malicious. There is no water here (anymore?). The gases above make sure of it. My face is full of craters and rocks of varying sizes. I am like a pubescent teen going through a phase of unflattering acne. Only my phase is going to be much longer. Millions of years.

Earth is said to be the most brilliant child of our generation. When I think of her, with her surface covered by life sustaining water, fertile land with a multitude of vegetation, I feel inferior. She is the prodigy of our gene pool. She retains all the family secrets. She has volcanoes spewing hot ash and poisonous gases, deep oceans housing millions of species of plant and animal life, geysers where hot underground water decides to make an appearance, rainforests where trees are found in thousands and life prevails. She has it all going for her. My nieces and nephews feel proud of their loving parent. They call me the evening star, an endearing sobriquet that seems to me more of a consolation.

Even Jupiter, the biggest of us all, pales in comparison to her. He is a failed star. None of us let him live it down. A storm, fondly called the Great Red Spot by the Earthlings, has been raging in his heart for aeons now. He must feel like he has failed our family, as if he didn’t fully put his illimitable potential to use.

But what’s done is done. This is how we’re going to stay for a very long time. Maybe after five and a half billion years, when Sun, our mother dies, so will we and the generation after us will get some respite. Hopefully, nature will not be so unkind to the coming generation. Less favouritism is all that I’m hoping for. Imagine eight planets. All with life on them. Ours will be the most privileged family in the cosmic vicinity.

Till then, all I can do is wait. But five and a half years with only sulphuric acid for company, is a long time.


Note: All content copyright of Priya Dua


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