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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!

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Go to this comic explanation

Moon Shapes
Whenever I see a picture of the moon where the points go more than halfway around, I assume it's being eclipsed by one of those Independence Day ships and interpret the rest of the image in light of that.
Title text: Whenever I see a picture of the moon where the points go more than halfway around, I assume it's being eclipsed by one of those Independence Day ships and interpret the rest of the image in light of that.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Table needs pictures. Title text needs explaining. Needs overall more detail.

The phases of the moon are created by sunlight reflecting off the moon's surface. This means that the bright side of the moon always needs to be facing towards the sun. However, the moon often appears in works of art in ways that are very dramatic, but violate this rule. This comic lists some of the some common mistakes. In some cases, a depiction may be unrealistic in multiple ways - for example, the Flag of Tunisia has both unrealistic horns and a star visible between the horns, while the Charles VI tarot shows a moon with over-long horns pointing towards the horizon.

Explanation of individual items in the list
Image Explanation Example
Full moon Normal -
Gibbous moon Normal -
Crescent moon with points away from horizon Normal -
Crescent moon with points towards horizon This can only happen when the sun is above the horizon. This isn't necessarily only during a solar eclipse, but since a crescent moon means that the Sun and Moon are relatively close in the sky, it's hard to see at other times. Van Gogh, Landscape with Couple Walking and Crescent Moon
Crescent-like moon where the black area doesn't touch the poles The moon is a nearly-perfect sphere, so when it's lit from one side, the dark side will always cover precisely 50% of its surface, and the dark area should begin and end on the moon's axis. If the moon looks like this, the shadows are in the wrong place. This is only possible during a partial solar eclipse, the start of an annular eclipse, or if the Earth is casting an extra shadow on the moon, a lunar eclipse. Randall labels the lunar eclipse "dubious", since the shadow during would be much fuzzier than shown here. Van Gogh, Starry Night
Crescent-like moon where the horns extend well past the poles Again, the shadow should just touch the poles. This situation is even harder to create than the previous one - the Earth's shadow is too big to cover the moon but leave an edge like this - a huge Independence Day spaceship might be the right size. It does however resemble a partial annular eclipse if you imagine that the black area is the moon covering up the white sun. Alcoholic Blues
Crescent moon blocking stars Normal -
Crescent moon with stars between horns As the moon is a huge ball, it should block the stars behind it. If stars are visible, there are either one or more holes, or a light-source on the moon. As the Star and Crescent, the image is sometimes considered a symbol of Islam, although it's relatively recent and there's no traditional basis for putting the star between the horns - as originally used on the Flag of Turkey, the star appears in a realistic position. Edwin Blashfield, Spring Scattering Stars

Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

Interpreting the shape of the moon in art

[A two column chart with the left side showing the moon, as seen in certain art pieces, and the right side saying whether this isnormal or not.]



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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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