1878: Earth Orbital Diagram

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Earth Orbital Diagram
You shouldn't look directly at a partial eclipse because of the damage that can be caused by improperly aligning the solar-lunar orbital plane with the orbital bones around your eye.
Title text: You shouldn't look directly at a partial eclipse because of the damage that can be caused by improperly aligning the solar-lunar orbital plane with the orbital bones around your eye.


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There is a particular irony here, the comic claims that the reason that eclipses don't happen every month is simple to understand by looking at an orbital diagram. But the detailed cartoon has so many parts and labels which make it far more difficult to understand than is implied.

This comic is the third consecutive comic published in the week before the solar eclipse occurring on Monday, August 21, 2017 which is a total solar eclipse and visible in totality within a band across the contiguous United States from west to east. The other comics are 1876: Eclipse Searches and 1877: Eclipse Science.


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I guess first off, we should note the "solstice" is *not* the Bristish equivalent of "equinox" -- they are actually opposites. The equinoxes occur in April and September, when the day & night are equal length, and the solstices occur in June and December, when the length of daylight and nightime, respectively, are at their longest. JamesCurran (talk) 15:30, 18 August 2017 (UTC)

Technically, the opposite of solstice is the other solstice. Solstice and equinoxes are orthogonal. -- Hkmaly (talk) 00:01, 20 August 2017 (UTC)

Being picky but the Equinox/Solstice section refers to equinoxes marking the start of either spring or autumn, but actually both equinoxes mark the beginning of both spring and autumn in opposite hemispheres. ExternalMonolog (talk) 22:08, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

"Determinant of the date of Easter" refers to the fact that in the Catholic Church (and possibly other Christian denomiations) the date of Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring, which means it is an astronomical calculation, but completely unrelated to the indicated angle. JamesCurran (talk) 16:28, 18 August 2017 (UTC)

Well, everyone celebrates Easter on the same day, right? So it's the first Sunday after the first full moon for everybody. Berets (talk) 23:20, 18 August 2017 (UTC)
No, not all denominations agree on the date of Easter; a particular example being the Orthodox church, which usually has Easter a week after the Catholic church, but sometimes as much as five weeks later. The difference is caused by the two denominations using different idealized calendars, both lunar and solar, as well as a slight difference in the definition. 18:41, 19 August 2017 (UTC)

"Astral planes" might as well be a Unicode reference, taking into account Randall's occasional mention of emoji, since emoji reside on one of the astral planes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plane_%28Unicode%29 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

That supplementary planes humorously refer also to Astral planes as mentioned in this explanation.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:54, 18 August 2017 (UTC)

Solstice comes from the Latin ... Sol = Sun .. Sistere = Stand still. It literally means the day the sun stands still and refers to the longest day of the year (summer) and the shortest day of the year (winter). So how does the Sun "stand still". On those days the Earth reaches either end of orbital ellipse and returns around the other side. If you stick a pole in the ground and observe its shadow every day at Noon you will see the shadow grow longer every day from winter to summer and grow shorter every day from summer to winter. The shadow is shortest when the Sun is highest in the sky at mid-summer and the shadow is longest when the sun is lowest in the sky at mid-winter. The sun is either getting higher in the sky or lower in the sky every day. When the Earth is at the end of the ellipse and the transition takes place the shadow will not make any noticeable change from one day to the next and one could say that the "Sun has stood still". Rtanenbaum (talk) 19:36, 18 August 2017 (UTC)

I think that Solstice/Equinox thing is a reference to Randall having a hobby of spreading linguistic misinformation, as seen in 1677:Contrails. 00:32, 19 August 2017 (UTC)

I'm not sure what the labels of the planes are, but they certainly aren't Greek letters. They look like alchemical symbols to me. 00:56, 20 August 2017 (UTC)

Part of the humor of Declension is that it's a portmanteau of right ascension and declination. Right now only declination is mentioned. 02:43, 20 August 2017 (UTC)

Arctangent is also a music festival in the UK, happening when this comic came out. -- 22:30, 21 August 2017 (UTC)