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Friday, April 23rd -12:05 am
Update - Lunar Archivist

Get Across the Moon #3


"I can see clearly now" will never be a big hit on Venus.

Often referred to as Earth's twin sister, the planet Venus would, at first glance, seem to possess a number of properties that substantiate hat claim. The second planet in our Solar System, it is similar in size (a radius of around 6052 km compared to Earth's 6378 km), gravity (91% of Earth), mass (82% of Earth), and geologic composition (mostly iron and rock) to our own, but it is with these relatively superficial properties that any similarities between our two worlds ends.

Possessing an extremely dense atmosphere with nice, thick, fluffy, sulfuric acid rainclouds, the planet is quite literally a living hell. If the atmospheric pressure - which is 90 times greater than it is on Earth and thus crushed most early space probes flat before they even came close to landing - does not do you in, the balmy 450°C surface temperatures, hot enough to boil lead, probably will… unless you can somehow find some really decent shade. (For those who enjoy a challenge, I recommend trying somewhere else other than the polar regions or the "night side" of the planet, since the circulation of Venus' atmosphere makes heat distribution incredibly efficient.) Thus, it comes as no surprise that even the most robust spacecraft have yet to survive more than two hours in this pleasant environment before being reduced to the equivalent of molten Jell-O. The reason Venus is such a pressure cooker is because the atmosphere is around 96.5% carbon dioxide and almost 3.5% nitrogen - though other gases such as water, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and argon are also present, of course - and thus suffers from a runaway greenhouse effect. Simply put, when sunlight strikes the planet's surface and increases its temperature, 99% of the heat energy (emitted as infrared radiation) cannot escape into space but is instead reabsorbed by the atmosphere's thick blanket of clouds and trapped, resulting from a vicious circle from which there is no escape. How exactly this mess got started is unknown, though assuming that both the Earth and Venus started out almost identically in composition, it is believed that the latter's closer proximity to the Sun might be responsible, which just goes to show what a difference 30 million kilometers make and how lucky we are to be here at all.

Even stranger is the fact that Venus is also slow and backwards. This is, of course, not a reference to either intellect or education but the way and speed with which it the planet rotates. While the fact that a "Venusian year" is shorter than an "Earth year" (being around 224.7 of "our" days long) is unsurprising, what is not is that a "Venusian" day is 243 of "our" days long. This means that it takes more time for the planet to rotate once about its own axis than to complete a single orbit around the Sun. Stranger still, the planet's orbit is retrograde, meaning that Venus is a rebel that has decided to screw convention by rotating in the opposite direction that most other bodies in the Solar System do. This, in turn, means that what you would initially think was the planet's North Pole is actually its South Pole, and vice versa. (To all our female readers: since men are naturally lousy with directions, try giving one of your male friends a map of Venus, start giving them instructions on how to get from Point A to Point B, and watch the fun begin.)

Click for the full-size image.
Note that the colors in the picture are used only to make elevations clearer, and do not represent oceans or greenery.

In spite of the prevalence of magic in Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, the series has remained faithful in a number of ways to established scientific fact, which comes as no surprise considering the creator's deep-seated interest in astronomy. In Volume 1 of Codename: Sailor V, Artemis tells Minako about her base of operations and home during the time of the Silver Millennium, Magellan Castle, which "floats over the Land of Aphrodite". Since the castles of the individuals Sailor Soldiers are usually named after one (or more, in the case of Sailor Mars) of the moons of their respective planets, Venus presents us with a problem as it has no natural satellites. Thus, in this case it was instead named, anachronistically, after one of its (temporary) artificial ones, namely the Magellan probe, which entered orbit around the planet in August 1990 which successfully radar-mapped the entire planet and provided groundbreaking data about Venus' topology and surface features. The so-called "Land of Aphrodite" of which Artemis speaks is most likely Aphrodite Terra, a continent-sized mass of highland regions located near the equator in the planet's Eastern hemisphere, which would seem to suggest that Magellan Castle is maintained in some sort of stationary, geosynchronous orbit over the area in question. Moreover, the malodorous Venus Sulfur Smoke attack Sailor V uses against her feline adversary Nyan-Nyan in Volume 11 acknowledges that the atmosphere of the fictional Sailor Moon Universe's version of the planet Venus is no less toxic or hazardous than the one in the real world. It is possible that the region with the giant, circular fault zone at the southernmost edge of Aphrodite Terra, known as Artemis Chasma, may have partially inspired the naming of her cat, though the overlap in this case is most likely due to sheer chance as less far-fetched, more mythologically relevant connections exist for having made that particular chance.

Speaking of chance, it is interesting to note that two of the most interesting bits of symbolism relevant to the series which pertain to the planet Venus owe their existences not to deliberate acts of planning but instead to an amazing series of coincidences. One is that, just southwest of Aphrodite Terra, there is a large lowland region known as Aino Planitia, whose designation just happens to be identical to the family name of Sailor Venus' alter ego. (For the curious, the name has its origin in Finnish mythology, Aino having been the name of a young woman who committed suicide by drowning and became a water spirit.) The other is similar in nature, though, this time, it pertains to Stephanie Morgenstern, the actress who originally provided the voice for the character in the North American dub. Her family name, Morgenstern, is German for "morning star" which, as many people know, is a synonym for the planet Venus.

Perhaps there is some magic in the universe after all. At least as far as the naming pattern Naoko Takeuchi established goes, anyway…

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