66: Abusive Astronomy

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Abusive Astronomy
Medium: Pencil on paper
Title text: Medium: Pencil on paper

Explanation

A constellation (more formally known as an asterism) is a pattern of stars which form some sort of perceived shape in the night sky. Different cultures have created different patterns from the same groups of stars going back at least as far as the Babylonians. The Pleiades, Orion's belt and the Big Dipper are among the most common constellations that we recognise today and are among the first taught to people with an interest in astronomy. The Big Dipper can be used to help find the north pole star Polaris and this can be a useful aid to night time navigation.

During planetarium tours, the tour guide will point out popular constellations and stars, sometimes they will ask a question to get the audience involved in the presentation. Usually these people are big on showing the wonder of the galaxy and are all smiles, but people have bad days. Randall might also be reflecting on the fact that the grouping and naming of constellations varies from culture to culture and how easy it is for an expert to fail to realise that what is basic knowledge to them might be completely new to someone else.

Transcript

Identifying star clusters:
[Image of a star cluster.]
This is the Pleiades, asshole.
Orion's Belt:
[Image of a Orion's Belt.]
Only a moron couldn't find it.
This is the Big Dipper:
[Image of the Big Dipper.]
What the hell is wrong with you?
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Discussion

Actually, I don't quite get it. Since it's one of the early xkcd strips, it is somewhat different from the latter ones. I would suppose he is making fun on how it is impossible to guess what the constellations are, as they just look like a bunch of stars clumped together (definitely not like a belt). 35.13.220.113 03:52, 25 October 2012 (UTC) NariOX

The first one looks like a certain male part, the second looks like a pencil, I can't figure out the last one though...

Constellations are NOT "formally known as asterisms." They are defined area of the celestial sphere. Asterisms are star formations that are part of constellations (e.g. Orion's Belt) or can span multiple constellations (e.g. the Summer Triangle and Winter Hexagon.) Constellations are more formally called, um, constellations. Subwoofer (talk) 22:23, 6 September 2013 (UTC)

I have been stargazing quite a lot in the last year and I can tell that those constellations are rather simple to recognize in the night sky; especially the Orion's belt, only someone completely inept wouldn't be able to find it, in the Northern Hemisphere. 108.162.219.59 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
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