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Latest revision as of 17:52, 5 June 2018

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 2008 xkcd comics, and only 18 (1%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Go to this comic explanation

Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram
The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is located in its own lower right corner, unless you're viewing it on an unusually big screen.
Title text: The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is located in its own lower right corner, unless you're viewing it on an unusually big screen.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a RED GIANT - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

The Hertzsprung–Russell diagram is a scatterplot showing absolute luminosities of stars against its effective temperature or color. It's generally used to understand a star's age.

The axes are labeled in Kelvin (degrees Celsius above absolute zero) for effective temperature and, in a unlike many Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams, Watts for luminosity. While most Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams are labelled in units of solar luminosity or absolute magnitude, all three are perfectly valid measures of luminosity, which refers to the total power emitted by the star (or other body). Effective temperature refers to temperature of a blackbody with the same surface area and luminosity. This is meant to provide an estimate of the surface temperature of the object.

Regular Hertzsprung–Russell diagrams cover ranges of about 1,000K to 30,000K, and what is labeled on this diagram as 1021 to 1033 watts—i.e. the upper-left corner. Extended diagrams increase the luminosity range only to include the "Brown Dwarfs". This diagram has been extended to much lower magnitudes on both axes. The joke comes from the absurdity of a diagram meant for stars including much smaller objects, such as planets ... and astronomers.

Though not included in the diagram, the title text notes that the screen displaying the diagram would probably be plotted somewhere in the lower right corner due to its (relatively) low brightness and heat output. Bigger screens have a higher power output (in terms of luminosity) and are thus positioned further towards the diagram's top corner. An "unusually big screen" would have to be something like a JumboTron for its luminosity to put it outside of the lower right corner.

Table

Item Effective Temperature Luminosity Explanation
Betelgeuse 3000 k 1031 W
Vega 10,000 K 1027 W
Sun 6000 K ~1026 W
Proxima Centauri
HD 189733b
Interior of a hydrogen bomb during detonation ~108 K
Jupiter
Venus It appears that this might have been misplaced on the temperature axis, being far too closely placed to France and to Earth. Infact Venus is at 735K where Earth has a mean of 287K.
Earth
Mars
Moon
Nuclear Fireball
France
Europa
Lightning Bolt
Ivanpah Solar Plant Salt Tank
Medium-sized Lava Lake
Cruise Ship
Campfire
Blue Whale
Arc Lamp
Lightbulb
LED Bulb
Astronomer 310K The body temperature of a human (astronomer or otherwise) is about 310K (37°C)

Transcript

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

[A scatter plot is shown, with the x-axis labeled Effective Temperature (in degrees Kelvin, and the y-axis Luminosity (watts).]


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

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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 and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
  • We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.

Rules

Don't be a jerk.

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