Exotic Places

One thing that’s interesting about the Kepler results is the images of exotic places that they can conjur up – skies with ringed gas giants, suns as big as dinner plates and dull as coals in a fireplace, planets double-parked on each other almost like eggs in a box, that sort of thing. One supposes that the night sky from any of the Kepler-11 planets would be pretty impressive, given that all of them lie within the equivalent of the orbit of Venus. One suspects they may even subtend small disks rather than points in each others’ skies. (Actually, there’s a thought, given we know the radii – we know the radii! – it should be possible to check this. Hmmm…)

Of course, there are some pretty exotic places here on Earth too.

Image credit: Wikipedia

The above is called ‘The Door to Hell’. It’s a real place. It’s located in the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan, near the town of Derweze.

Years ago, the state oil company were doing some gas exploration. And – you can see where this is going, can’t you? – they found some. In fact, they found rather more than they could handle. The drilling rig collapsed into a deep hole in the ground, from which poisonous fumes began to escape. So they decided to burn the gas off, assuming that it would be expended in a few days.

That was 40 years ago. It’s been burning away ever since.

This is what happens when you mix an oxygen-rich atmosphere with hydrocarbons and a side-order of industrial accident: fire. Lots of it. A big burning pit in the ground. I don’t know if I’d call the results beautiful as such, but there is something energetic and striking about it. I’d imagine it’s certainly hard to forget!

And this is just the sort of weirdness that we get here on Earth. It makes you wonder what else there is out there.


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