1298: Exoplanet Neighborhood

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Exoplanet Neighborhood
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!
Title text: It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

See a larger version of the comic here: http://xkcd.com/1298/large/.

[edit] Explanation

The diagram is a graphical representation of the statistically predicted distribution of nearby exoplanets (planets not in our solar system), based on the assumption that the exoplanets that are currently known have a distribution of orbits, sizes, and star types that is similar to the actual distribution. Astronomers are particularly interested in exoplanets within 60 light years of Earth which lie in a habitable zone; that is, a planet whose orbit is within a certain range of distance from a star such that water could exist in a liquid state.

Since almost all life on Earth (which is the only place we've actually found life thus far) depends on liquid water in some way, these planets are considered the most likely to support life. The diagram categorizes exoplanets in two ways. The disc color indicates the characteristics of the central star, with a reddish tone indicating hypothetical planets that orbit stars similar in characteristics to our sun, while grey indicates those that orbit stars unlike our sun. The disc sizes indicates the hypothetical size of the exoplanets, with planets similar to Earth's size depicted in a slightly darker shade of either color. Because the discs represent a distribution, their positioning within the diagram is irrelevant; the spacing around the title and the Earth is an artistic choice.

It appears that the diagram is intended to cause the viewer to conclude that there are a significant number of Earth-sized planets orbiting Sun-type stars which could be habitable, and even more possibly-habitable planets around other types of stars or in other sizes.

The title text, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!" is an allusion to the former PBS television show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in which the same line presents itself in the opening song, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?".

The title of the comic was changed from what is currently the title text to "Exoplanet Neighborhood".

Randall has commented on the results of exoplanet research before, in 786: Exoplanets and 1071: Exoplanets.

[edit] Transcript

A portrait of all habitable-zone planets within 60 light-years of Earth (constructed from statistical data on typical planet sizes and orbits)
[The image shows many planets in different colors and a legend shows planets at different sizes.]
Planets around sun-like stars
Planets around other stars
[A marker on both sides:]
Earth-sized planets
[Center of the image.]
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Why the big empty circle around Earth?? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Because they're all far away and he wants to make the reader feel lonely. 13:42, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

So all these other planets are close to each other, but Earth is far from them? Or does the distance between circles have no meaning besides the empty space around Earth's circle? 15:16, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Most of these planets are hypothetical (last I checked, we knew of five such planets), and the nearest to us are in Tau Ceti, only 12 ly away. I'd say the space around Earth is metaphorical. We're kind of like Samwise as he and Frodo leave the Shire; those first few miles seem like an enormous distance. Fryhole (talk) 18:50, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Why New-New-America? And why not New-New-Netherlands? Quoti (talk) 15:36, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Changed it to New-New-World, as that makes a lot more sense than New-New-America. The Americas were commonly referred to as the 'New World', and the reference alludes to 'Sailing for the new world'. Andyd273 (talk) 15:49, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

After staring at this graph for a while, I got a sudden urge to play Osmos... Andyd273 (talk) 16:03, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

The title seems to have changed to "Exoplanet Neighborhood" and the mouseover text to what used to be the title... Xseo (talk) 16:36, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

This is very similar. It was of June 2012, so quite a bit has been discovered since then. By Kepler, I think? --Irino. (talk) 17:36, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

According to exoplanet.eu, as of 2 Dec 2013 there are 1,049 confirmed exoplanets, meaning we've confirmed more than 250 planets in the last 17-18 months. Bear in mind, though, that #1071 shows confirmed planets anywhere in the galaxy, while #1298 shows an estimate of planets within a rather narrow strip of space (habitable zones of nearby stars). -- Fryhole (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

It may just be me, but this looks like one of those colour-blindness tests (I'm r-g colour blind). I was half-looking for some hidden message or number or sumfink in the pattern of dos, but of course I'm the one that usually misses out on those things :D Can colour-typical viewers see anything odd or unexpected in the pattern of dots? Oh, also, in the explanation of the comic here, it talks about the "reddish tone" and "grey" disks ... they all look grey to me, although some are darker than others :D Note that http://xkcd.com/1071/ does NOT remind me of a colour blindness test, except in the most superficial way - a circle of dots. I think this one, 1298, does because Randall has used pastel tones. Cheers, Jon. --Jon. (talk) 16:36, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Nothing odd or unexpected in the pattern of dots, Jon. No hidden "color blind test"-like message. 18:53, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Anyone else feel like perhaps we're still missing something here? Maybe I've simply become spoiled, but this straightforward graphic info, with no real puzzle nor pun nor humor (much less layers of these), seems ... incomplete and/or improbable. Also, what/where is the "New-New-America" or "New-New-World" discussed by Quoti above? Maybe I'm missing something major, somehow. BTW, 1K apologies for highly-likely noob errata in this, my 1st attempt at commenting here. Miamiclay (talk) 22:52, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Comics at xkcd do not always contain a joke. Look here: 4: Landscape (sketch). Maybe we do need a category for this.--Dgbrt (talk) 00:04, 3 December 2013 (UTC)
 I agree there is not always any joke, but generally there seems to be either a joke, or puzzle, or riddle, or pun, or mind-bending non sequitur ... something beyond the simple information here recognized so far.  Would not be the first time I have overthought an issue (maybe not first time today!), but I sense there's more here.  Miamiclay (talk) 15:36, 4 December 2013 (UTC)

The joke resides in the hover text for this panel. The "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" reference satisfies me comedically.

Pretty cool, a comic that uses a web browser's presentation timing for its wise cracks. DLuebbert (talk) 17:22, 4 December 2013 (UTC)

[The potty 1] I'm deeply suspicious of this infographic. For a start the resemblance to a color blindness test is obvious. Second the circle around earth must have some meaning. If it was what he says it is he would probably have labelled at least the larger planets? -- The Potty 1 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Has anyone noticed the different typography? Any Idea why it’s set in Futura and not in his own handwriting? Quoti (talk) 10:08, 3 December 2013 (UTC)

Presumably because it's available as a poster. Wwoods (talk) 17:04, 3 December 2013 (UTC)

Are the planets in proportion to one another or not? Because some of them seem pretty large. Could those be gaseous planets? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Randall says: "constructed from statistical data on typical planet sizes and orbits" — so this is much more a guess. Many of those planets are still not confirmed by Earth based observatories. But Randall is showing all planets in a habitable zone, that does include Gas-Planets, Earth-sized planets are just a small part on all this planets.--Dgbrt (talk) 22:17, 4 December 2013 (UTC)

To me, it looks like a Mitchell's Best Candidate... http://bl.ocks.org/mbostock/1893974 Ld75 (talk) 18:55, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

This remembers me on a graphic from the german newspaper "Die Zeit" 03/1995: http://schwertschlager.de/geschichte/klasse%2010/overkill.htm It's about the overkill capacity of nuclear weapons in the second world war.--guest 20:12, 28 March 2014 (UTC)

It probably should be noted that the correct lyrics in "Won't You By My Neighbor?" are "It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood!" not "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" 18:56, 13 August 2016 (UTC)

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