1830: ISS Solar Transit 2

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ISS Solar Transit 2
Most people don't realize it, but they actually launch a new space station every few weeks because this keeps happening.
Title text: Most people don't realize it, but they actually launch a new space station every few weeks because this keeps happening.


This Friday comic is a continuation of the Monday comic from the same week, 1828: ISS Solar Transit, where Cueball was preparing his camera in order to capture the transit of the International Space Station (ISS) across the Sun. The comic is also made in the same special way using split panels. As noted in the first comic in the ISS series the white balance is still not set properly, because the Sun looks orange instead of white/yellow.

However, instead of transiting across the face of the Sun, the ISS crashes into the Sun. In reality, of course, this can never happen, because the ISS orbits Earth at an altitude of between 330 and 435 km, while the Earth orbits the Sun at an altitude of about 149.60 million kilometers or 1 astronomical unit. This means the minimum distance between the ISS and the Sun is only slightly less than 1 AU. Also, due to parallax, only people in a very localized region on Earth are able to see the ISS "hit" the Sun. For all others the ISS would travel past the Sun.

Additionally, even if the ISS were to somehow impact the Sun, it would not make a noticeable splash, due to being incredibly tiny compared to the Sun. It would get vaporized before reaching it. (See the what if? article Tungsten Countertop). The white dot marked as "ISS" in this strip would have to be as large as a planet. Furthermore, it would make no "Fwoosh" sound to be heard on Earth, primarily because there's a large empty vacuum between Earth and the Sun, through which sound cannot propagate. For consistency, the "Fwoosh" might be considered exactly as diegetic as the "ISS" label, crosshair and logically even the 'splash' – if they are all real and tangible, they together show a truly massive impact, relatively speaking, that may occur across the soundless intervening void.

The title text plays on the event in the comic, by saying that a new space station is being launched every few weeks as the event in the comic keeps happening, with a continual series of ISSs being destroyed by crashing into the Sun on a regular basis. This is clearly implausible, as it has taken many years to build up the ISS, and there are at least three astronauts on board that would get killed a couple of times a month in that case.

It's possible that the comic is a play on conspiracy theories about space exploration, such as the moon-landing being faked. In these situations, while the government may be trying to cover up or show something different from what actually happened, amateur photographers/astronomers/radio enthusiasts (such as Cueball in this comic) claim to observe the event, independently of government or commercial sources, and see what really happened. In this case, the conspiracy theory would be that the ISS actually does crash into the Sun every few weeks, but we're made to believe that it orbits the Earth without crashing, while Cueball is able to observe what really happens with his camera. It further bears certain resemblance to the beliefs of the Flat Earth Society, which is that the Sun and Moon are only 3000 miles away from the Earth, with the rest of the cosmos being only 100 miles further way. Were that the case, such a collision would be far less unlikely; as it is, such a collision is patently ridiculous.


[Every panel is split into two half-height panels arranged vertically.]
[The first top panel shows an image of an orange sun on a black background with a white dot labeled in light-blue letter at the top right corner. The dot is in a light-blue cross-hair and a light-blue dotted trail is behind it as indicating movement towards the sun.]
[In the bottom panel Cueball is kneeling in front of a small platform while operating a camera with a very long objective while holding a smartphone. The camera is angled sharply upward toward the sky as it is attached to a tripod standing on the platform.]
Cueball: Perfect! Transit in three... two...
[The upper image is the same but the dot has halved the distance to the sun.]
[Cueball sits in the panel below.]
Cueball: ...one...
[In the upper panel the dotted line enters the Sun and the white dot has plunged into the sun making a flare "splash" out from the surface of the Sun. This makes a sound written in orange letters.]
[Cueball sits silent in the panel below.]


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Gees Randal, that's actually really dark.

Attempted explaining. It is not real, ... I hope {{ 05:03, 28 April 2017 (UTC)}}

costs would be astronomical. I see what you did there and I approve. 07:23, 28 April 2017 (UTC)

astronomical, good joke 09:35, 28 April 2017 (UTC)
+1 Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 11:28, 28 April 2017 (UTC)
Yeah, I was amused by that too. But looks like someone removed it. 17:06, 28 April 2017 (UTC)

Have to disagree on the Pink Floyd joke. I don't see it. Xseo (talk) 11:43, 28 April 2017 (UTC)

The diameter of the sun is 864,575.9 mi. In the first panel the ISS is about that far away. Second panel is about halfway, so 432,287.95 miles. According to Popular Science, the ISS could probably make it to just over a million miles away before burning up (seeing as how the shuttle could make it ~1.3 million and I think the ISS has more protection), the "fwoosh" should be in the first panel. And in any matter, the sound effect should be a "sploosh" sound with the splashing visuals. OldCorps (talk) 13:22, 28 April 2017 (UTC)

If the impact were to really happen as shown, then one of two things must be true, either: 1) The ISS is really really large (eyeballing it as about 4x the size of the Earth vs. the size of the Sun as shown) or 2) The Sun is really smaller than we think and as close as the ISS's orbit. In either case, the ISS would be likely to survive entry into the Sun's surface. If the former is true, this also makes replacing it twice a month all the more impressive. Go NASA!.Harodotus (talk) 16:48, 28 April 2017 (UTC)

Obviously, the Sun is really smaller and as close as the ISS's orbit and it orbits Earth which is flat and in the center of Universe as Bible says. What else would you expect from the conspiracy theory? -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:12, 28 April 2017 (UTC)

Anyone want to try explaining limb darkening (as drawn in the comic)? 18:28, 28 April 2017 (UTC)

Is there a reason Randall has done two IIS Solar Transit comics this week? Are these transits rare and one is happening around now or something? --Pascal (talk) 01:14, 29 April 2017 (UTC)

Please recalculate the speed of ISS with an orbital distance of 1 AU. Then the fwoosh could be realistic to be in the third panel and to be as large as depicted? Sebastian -- 07:26, 29 April 2017 (UTC)

This explanation spends an awful lot of time telling how the comic is unrealistic, and not as much time actually EXPLAINING the comic's humor. 17:15, 29 April 2017 (UTC)

Maybe we should put the astronomical joke back? It's not too bad. < 08:46, 29 April 2017 (UTC)>