Title text: I've got the Craigslist post ready to go! I wasn't sure what category it should go in, so I listed it as property and put that it has 'good sun exposure.'
Ponytail and Cueball walks in from the left to meet Megan who comes from the right. They are walking in between two trees while Ponytail tells Cueball that One day a year, the sun sets directly between these two trees.
Cueball's reply: Oh, cool - like the Manhattan thing, is a reference to Manhattanhenge, a phenomenon occurring twice a year that causes the setting sun to align with the east-west streets of the main grid of Manhattan, New York, causing a very special light display. Manhattanhenge is itself named after Stonehenge, an ancient monument consisting of several large stones, where the heel stone and the embanked avenue are aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice (thus creating on purpose the effect seen today in Manhattan, on specially intended dates). Hence the title of the comic, which was released less than a week after the winter solstice which fell on 2015-12-22.
After a beat panel Cueball, however, realizes that one could make the setting sun line up with almost any two arbitrary trees on any given day. This is due to the fact that the trees are effectively zero-dimensional points on the surface rather than one-dimensional lines like street grids. So any two trees that are close together with one tree further north would allow a setting sun to set between them; the viewer of the sunset could simply move themselves to make the alignment work. This is opposed to Stonehenge/Manhattanhenge, which requires the sun to align with a straight line, and only works on a few days a year.
The twist comes when Ponytail and Megan actually attempt to capture the setting sun with a butterfly net, as it is revealed that the sun is somehow setting at the actual point between the two trees rather than behind the trees when viewed from the east side. This is of course not possible in real life, but in the comic's last panel and in the title text the girls continue with their successful though surrealistic plan.
If this was indeed our Sun that they had somehow shrunk and cooled enough to captured with a butterfly net, transfer to a bag and bring it home, this would on xkcd terms be no more strange than many of the strange powers of Beret Guy. If this would indeed happen, then since Earth and the rest of the solar system is now missing its central star there would be a ton of problems for everyone on Earth. So the girls would probably be able to get a lot of money in ransom for releasing the sun, but in the title text it turns out that they are just going to sell the Sun on-line.
Alternatively this is not the Sun, but just a small sun-look alike, maybe a ball lightning which might actually be able to behave like this (though one would not be able to capture it in a bag).
Or the girls simply play a theatrical show for the reader. They know the comic's panel orientation, reader's position and the view projection. So they position themselves like the two trees between reader and the distant sun to look like they capture it with a butterfly net and a bag.
The title text refers to Craigslist, a web site where the girls plans to offer the sun for sale in hopes of getting rich. Craigslist is a classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, etc. One of the girls tells that she was uncertain as to under which category she should list a "Sun for sale". But she put it under property (as in real estate). To advertise the "property" she put "that it has 'good sun exposure", a common description of real estate. Being the sun itself you could claim that it is well located compared to the Sun, but it will never really see any sun light itself as the only "sun" light that hits the Sun is the light from other stars which is very dim.
The title text may also be a reference to a woman who was stopped by eBay after attempting to sell plots of "land" on the Sun on the site.
Lately Randall has had his characters catch several things (but never butterflies) with a butterfly net. The next instance of butterfly nets can be seen in 1635: Birdsong, released less than a month after this comic's release date, wherein a bird is chased with a net.
- [Ponytail and Cueball are walking towards two trees from the left (Cueball has just passed the first tree) and Megan is walking towards them from the right. Ponytail spreads her arms while talking.]
- Ponytail: One day a year, the sun sets directly between these two trees.
- Cueball: Oh, cool - like the Manhattan thing.
- [Beat panel without a frame border. Cueball stands alone.]
- [Cueball looks at Ponytail and Megan, while shining light appears at the top of the frame. Ponytail walks straight under the light looking up and Megan standing to the right looks up and points at the light.]
- Cueball: Wait, isn't that true every day for pretty much any two trees?
- Megan: Shh, here it comes!
- [Cueball lifts both arms up and look on as Ponytail bending back suddenly holds a butterfly net up towards the "setting" sun that approaches the net while Megan is holding a bag open. Both are looking at the sun.]
- Cueball: Wait, what?
- Ponytail: OK, got the bag?
- Megan: Yup, grab it!
- Ponytail: We're gonna be rich!
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This "catch the sun in the butterfly net" subplot reminds me of novel by Polish author Kornel Makuszyński (and a children's films based on it) "The Two Who Stole the Moon" --JakubNarebski (talk) 08:43, 28 December 2015 (UTC)
I had to laugh at this part of the explanation, and then remove it: "(In reality, the fact that the net is not melting or burning proves that the sun is nowhere near the net.)" Because in this comic they obviously catch the sun ion a net, as they later (after the catch) has put it on sale on Craiglist as per the title text. But the reason I laughed was that the only problem the writer of this sentence saw was that the sun would be too hot. What about it's size and gravity, if we are talking about the real sun... So yes if it where the real sun it would be a long way away to look this small (150 million km as usual, 8 light minutes). But in this comic it is between the trees and it is very small and cool. Only strange thing is that Beret Guy is not involved as his powers would explain this comic. But then again he would never do it for profit. --Kynde (talk) 09:23, 28 December 2015 (UTC)
- I disagree, there's no indication that this scheme actually worked. The Craigslist posting could just as easily have been written in advance, and the Title text could be the next line spoken, before the capture either succeeds or fails. Swordsmith (talk) 16:48, 28 December 2015 (UTC)
- If the sun will be cold, it would also be dark. On the other hand, if the sun will have it's real temperature and be small, it would be exploding ... it's hard to remove just one property from Sun. -- Hkmaly (talk) 16:04, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
The "sun exposure" explanation is wrong. It's not about how it holds up under sunlight, it's about how much sunlight it gets. 184.108.40.206 17:21, 28 December 2015 (UTC)
The phrase "any given day" suggests that the two hypothetical trees will align with the sun on any day of the year arbitrarily chosen. A better way to say it would be "...Cueball realizes that the setting sun would line up with almost any two trees on at least one day of the year." (Anonymous user Ben) 220.127.116.11 16:43, 29 December 2015 (UTC)
- If the observer is able to move freely, he can always position himself in such a way that the sun will set between the two trees on any give day. The only exception will be if the two trees and the sunset are aligned, i.e. the trees obscure the sun. Sysin (talk) 17:24, 29 December 2015 (UTC)
The line about "getting rich" got me thinking.... Only 5E-10 of the sun is gold  but the sun's mass is approx 2E30kg , so that's 1E21 kg of gold (about US $35 septillion at today's prices), and that's just one element, there are all sorts of precious metals in the sun's core... Sysin (talk) 17:19, 29 December 2015 (UTC)
- ^^(about US $35 septillion at today's prices)^^ - yes, but, once you had it (in a lump it'd be over 1% the mass of the Moon or perhaps 300 billion Mt Everests) in your posession and started to sell it, not anywhere near so much at tomorrow's prices... ;) 18.104.22.168 12:48, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
The selling of Sun on craigslist is possibly a refernce to the woman who was selling land on the sun on ebay -- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3112111/What-blazes-Spanish-woman-selling-plots-land-sun-1-sues-eBay-breach-contract-auction-site-closes-down.html 22.214.171.124 17:30, 29 December 2015 (UTC)