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|| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by the JOHN NETT LAND MICROSCOPE - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.|
This comic depicts an advent calendar geared toward astronomers anticipating the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.
The James Webb Space Telescope is (currently, but after many prior delays) scheduled to be launched on the 22nd of December. Christmas will indeed come early for astronomers should the launch be successful.
A normal advent calendar marks the days until Christmas by allowing 'doors' to be opened, or other means of revealing some treat/picture. This is often from the 1st of the month until the 'big reveal' on the 24th or 25th, though other schemes may exist for cultural reasons. This particular calendar features 18 hexagonal features, intended to be sequentially accessed over several days, deliberately similar to the 18 gold-beryllium mirror segments designed to fold out to form the JWST's primary mirror. The first door is on the 5th, two days after this comic's publication date, while the last is the 22nd, marking 'The Big Day'.
Cueball's question could be interpreted two ways: Cueball doesn't know about JWST, so he is asking why this advent calendar ends before Christmas (and possibly fearing this calendar is similar to the one in 1245: 10-Day Forecast); or Cueball does know about JWST and its history of delays, so he is asking why the calendar ends on 22 when there is no certainty in that launch date (and also implying that he expects it to be delayed).
December 22 is also the day after the northern hemisphere winter solstice. The end of the world was famously predicted for the winter solstice in 2012.
The title text references the fact that chocolates in advent calendars are often molded into different shapes, and the fact that the later numbers have a "pamphlet on managing anxiety" is probably supposed to quell the impeding fear that the launch would be delayed (or go wrong). The telescope's launch was initially planned for 2007, but due to various redesigns, financial issues, accidents, flaws, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the launch date was pushed back to 2011, then 2013, 2018, 2020, May 2021, October 2021, and finally to the current launch date in December 2021. It may also allude to post-launch concerns; even if the launch goes well, there will still be nervousness about reaching its intended observation point, unfolding/deploying successfully, and passing its final calibrations without problems. There are effectively no means to rescue/repair this expensive piece of equipment should anything be discovered to be amiss, unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, which was visited five times by the Space Shuttles to remedy and enhance various features. (There exist issues with even the HST that cannot currently be considered repairable, without the Shuttles or any proven replacement, and the JWST is to be located far beyond Hubble's operational orbit in a place expensive to get to.)
The JWST has been referenced previously in 1730: Starshade, 2014: JWST Delays, and 2447: Hammer Incident, as well as indirectly in 975: Occulting Telescope and 1461: Payloads.
|| This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
- [Cueball and Ponytail are looking at an advent calendar. The advent calendar is in a hexagon shape, with 18 smaller hexagons with numbers ranging from 5-22 written on them.]
- Cueball: The hexagons are nice.
- Cueball: But why does it end at 22?
- [Caption below the panel:]
- Astronomer Advent Calendar
Don't be a jerk.
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