View Full Version : Bad Astronomy in a webcomic?

2006-Jun-10, 01:34 PM
Hi folks -- sorry I've not been posting here in recent months, I've had bigger fish to fry (like health issues, but that's another story).

Saw this on the web recently:


(For those not in the know, this webcomic features the real-life -- and not-so-real-life -- exploits of the comic's cartoonist, Greg Dean, and some of his close friends.)

Somehow, Tony's (the guy who built the improbably teched-out space station) statement that his station is:

Tony: I've placed the station in a stationary orbit between the earth and the sun, so the earth is just revolving beneath us while we stay still.

Greg: So what time is it?

Tony: 5:47 PM. It's always 5:47 PM. I keep a sundial in the control room to confuse the crew.
I'm thinking that he may have placed his station at the L1 point in the Earth-Sun system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrange_point#L1), but would such an orbit produce the time conditions he claims to have produced, particularly the exact time given? I suspect that the orbit may be possible, but not the "local time" unless he's positioned the sundial to continually read 5:47PM. (However, the position at L1 doesn't quite sync with the depiction of the Earth as seen through the station's windows. But it's a webcomic, so....)

2006-Jun-10, 10:15 PM
Any one piece of the description makes sense, but not any of them in combination. You can have orbits where it's always the same time (at least whenever you cross the equator going north-to-south), and, as you say, it could be at the L1 point. But not both!

2006-Jun-11, 05:34 AM
He is not in orbit around the Earth, that much is clear. As long as the Earth does not get in the way and space station does not rotate, all he has to do is orient the station however he wants. This could easily be explained if the orbit is not stable, but he is continuously using power to maintain its position. Remember, he was in the running for the X-prize but couldn't get the several boxes of cherry-flavored bubblegum his spacecraft used as propulsion in time, so he was delayed a few weeks in flying what would have been his award-winning giant space battleship to Mars along withs its legion of killer robots. And we just found out the ship's central computer is made out of jam (i.e. preserves). He built a door that can take you anywhere, routinely travels through time to buy games that haven't been released yet or even between dimensions to buy games that were cancelled in ours. He sold a battlemech to the French, owned a missile base in colorado, and was kidnapped by the CIA who stole most of his inventions but can't get them to work. He can make just about anything out of just about anything. The space station's orbit is the least of the issues here.

2006-Jun-11, 07:08 AM
Ok, so he's at L1, defines local time as what's shown by the sundial and keeps the station rotating to keep the time shown there at 5:47 PM.
No problems I can see.