2360: Common Star Types

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Common Star Types
This article is about Eta Carinae, a luminous blue hypergiant with anomalous Fe[ii] emission spectra. For the 1998 Brad Bird film, see The Iron Giant (film).
Title text: This article is about Eta Carinae, a luminous blue hypergiant with anomalous Fe[ii] emission spectra. For the 1998 Brad Bird film, see The Iron Giant (film).


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by an INDIGO BANSHEE. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This 'infographic' chart pertains to be a comparative guide to various star types, often described by a basic colour, which is something that even naked-eye astronomy has determined, and often qualified as 'dwarf' or 'giant' to describe relative sizes. True size of a star has only really been possible since the development of modern instrumental astronomy, which can also determine the different conditions that make a red dwarf and a red giant 'red'.

In true xkcd tradition, this is taken beyond reality. The pantheon of stars illustrated extend the use of 'dwarf' and 'giant' as if describing mythical or fictional beings, pairing other such creatures and beings with hues and shades that may not be typically used, or encountered, by astronomers.

The titletext is in the style of a Wikiledia page's subtitle, where a page might need to be subject to a disambiguation for a search term that might be occasionally intended to find a page under a quite different subject that is indexed by an alternate title.


[A chart, with circles representing stars of different colours and sizes. At the top:]

Common star types

[A small yellow star.]

Yellow dwarf
Warm, stable, slowly-growing

[An even smaller white star.]

White dwarf
Small, hot, dim

[A very large red-orange star squishing the previous two stars into the corners of the chart.]

Red giant
Huge, cool, luminous

[A small red star.]

Red dwarf
Small, cool, ancient, dim

[An olive green, medium-sized star.]

Green elf
Old, diminishes into the west

[A fairly large pale blue star.]

Blue giant
Large, hot, short-lived

[A blue-green, medium-sized star.]

Teal sphynx
Cryptic, eternal

[A small silver-coloured star.]

Gray wizard
Wise, powerful, mercurial

[A tiny blue star.]

Indigo banshee
Bright, portentous, extremely loud

[A beige, medium-sized star.]

Beige gorgon
Dangerous to observe at optical wavelengths.

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I'm thinking a table (Name, appearance, summary, ¿is real?, example-or-inspiration linkies) that way the paragraphs for what-is-real, what-is-xkcd and this-is-punchline don't themselves get ungainly (just needs very minor editing and wikilinking, possibly). And apols again to the first explained who seemed to appreciate their submission as only a placeholder so I overwrote rather than integrated. 22:37, 16 September 2020 (UTC)

[1] remained on Wikipedia for all of six minutes :/ 23:40, 16 September 2020 (UTC)

Ten minutes, surely? Lightcaller (talk) 01:55, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

Wat. (Full text here.) Lightcaller (talk) 01:55, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

And of course Brad Pitt is a star of yet another type... 04:53, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

Re Beige Gorgon, this is the average colour of the universe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_latte

Note that FeII spectral lines actually refer to signs of Fe+ ions (neutral is 'I', every ionisation level above that adds 1) but I can't see it mattering to anyone who doesn't read this far and it'd certainly have FeIII lines as well for 2+, or maybe I'm confused myself, so I supported the (chemistry) Ferrous association in the description with a link while I was editing nearby. 09:45, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

My opinion: I'm kinda getting bored of this types of comics here - listing some real scientific stuff and some made up. There's been a lot of them, and they seem repetitive - no real new humor. 11:30, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

YMMV? Looking at the last 100, if I include a very broad justification for inclusion I get just 20% one could say are 'this type', but sub-10% (with 2351 the most recent) if I am more realistic about comparison. And I generally like them, but each to their own. 14:10, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

...Teal Sphinx? :P 14:44, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

I'm not seeing a plausible connection to Teal Swan, myself. BunsenH (talk) 23:19, 18 September 2020 (UTC)
I don't think I believe Indigo Children is relevent, nor the Red Dwarf comedy series (in the table, though the Titletext mention as an example is Ok but is one thing among many that spoils it being concise). I mean, "mercury is (shiny) grey, the grey wizard is mercurial" makes more sense as a possibly inspirational factoid, but I don't want to add that because it's not really that explanatory. But never mind. 23:38, 18 September 2020 (UTC)

Question: What is the style guide for British vs. American Spelling (e.g., Color vs. Colour) in explain xkcd? I've seen quite a bit of that on this page. If it comes down to a vote, I think that we should stick with American spelling in general, because Randall is American. Argis13 (talk) 18:05, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

I believe the wiki standard is "consistency within an article" usually according to how the original contributors set it, where there isn't another factor (like direct quotation). Though before now I've seen perfectly consistent non-US spellings being (incompletely) systematically Americanized over an Anglicised (but possibly just Commonwealth/acceptible-everywhere-but-the-US) original. I don't think Johnson vs. Webster has yet arisen in a 'bracket' comic (or perhaps Merriam-Webster/OED to be actually current) so I don't know we can claim language-lover Randall automatically claims home-turf advantage. ;) 19:46, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

I wonder if the indigo banshee isn't referring to indigo children172.69.34.60 23:30, 17 September 2020 (UTC)

I imagine not. Sometimes a hue is just a hue. But now I think I know where the idea of the Blue Children came from, in another unrelated thing. 00:12, 18 September 2020 (UTC)

Perhaps this comic was inspired by this fact: https://www.zdnet.com/article/20-years-of-linux-on-big-iron/ 13:53, 18 September 2020 (UTC)

Um, I didnt have to solve a catchpa to edit. Anybody know why? -User:Donthaveusername 10:02, 18 September 2020

I believe reCAPTCHA has mechanisms to remember you as well as tracking your behavior on a page to see if you're human without having to pop up a CAPTCHA162.158.79.171 14:32, 23 September 2020 (UTC)

It's rather arbitrary, of course (these distinctions always are), but I had always assumed that "sphinx" was the fictional beast of myth, while "sphynx" refers to the real hairless cat breed. 06:04, 19 September 2020 (UTC)

Added colour...

Let me know what you think. The 𝗦𝗾𝗿𝘁-𝟭 talk stalk 11:57, 8 October 2020 (UTC)


Is the scale correct for the real stars? 11:02, 30 November 2020 (UTC)

No, not really. Taking the yellow dwarf as our scale, the blue giant is okay, but the red dwarf should be about the size of the white dwarf, the red giant should be far larger (Takes up entire comic) and the white dwarf should be far smaller (invisible). This is probably a case of artistic license. Argis13 (talk) 14:18, 25 February 2021 (UTC)