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Revision as of 03:05, 4 September 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have an explanation for all 1 xkcd comics, and only 0 (0%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

ISS Solar Transit
I guess it's also the right setting for pictures of the Moon at night.
Title text: I guess it's also the right setting for pictures of the Moon at night.

Explanation

Cueball is trying to take a photograph of the International Space Station moving in front of the sun (example).

A normal camera is not able to take a photograph of the sun due to the extreme brightness. This is why Cueball is using a solar filter, which makes the sun look orange instead of white.

Digital cameras need to determine the color temperature of a photograph to correctly display colors. This is done using the white balance setting. The joke here is that Cueball selects the "direct sunlight" option, as he feels it is the option that best suits his unusual situation of directly photographing the sun, even though the "direct sunlight" setting is intended to be used for photographing objects directly illuminated by the sun and not for the sun itself.

The light that reaches the camera sensor from an object illuminated by "direct sunlight" is, in fact, indirect sunlight, so when photographing the sun itself, the camera receives sunlight that is even more direct than "direct".

The use of a solar filter influences the color temperature, so "custom" would probably be the correct option here. A camera using the "custom" option usually requires you to focus on a white or gray object first to determine the correct setting. The camera depicted in the comic seems to be a DSLR, which would be able to capture in raw image format, allowing the user to adjust the white balance afterwards in software.

The title text is pointing out that the sunlit side of the moon is also in direct sunlight, which is why we are able to see it, and so "direct sunlight" would actually be the correct setting in this case.

Transcript

[Cueball is kneeling in front of a camera attached to a tripod, standing on a small platform, and angled sharply upward toward the sky.]
Off-screen voice: What's going on?
Cueball: ISS solar transit. From this spot, the space station should briefly line up with the sun. I got a sun filter and I'm trying to take a picture of it crossing.
[Image of a very orange sun on a black background, as seen through the camera.]
Cueball: Perfect. Hmm, I should set the white balance.
[White balance menu is shown with the following options:]
- Incandescent
- Fluorescent
- Direct sunlight
- Flash
- Cloudy
- Shade
- Custom
[Cueball pauses to think.]
[Selects Direct sunlight.]



Is this out of date? Clicking here will fix that.

New here?

Last 7 days (Top 10)

Lots of people contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined. You can do it too! Create your account here.

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes, memes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • List of all comics contains a table of most recent xkcd comics and links to the rest, and the corresponding explanations. There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
  • If you see that a new comic hasn't been explained yet, you can create it: Here's how.
  • We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.

Rules

Don't be a jerk. There are a lot of comics that don't have set in stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to —and helping everyone better understand— xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited). Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

If you need assistance from an admin, post a message to the Admin requests board.

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