Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Planet with 4 suns? Asimov got there first

Nightfall 1990 edition
A couple of weeks ago I pondered how far astronomy could progress on a planet bathed in perpetual daylight, and now Denis has directed me to Isaac Asimov’s 1941 science fiction short story "Nightfall". It features the coming of darkness to the people of a planet ordinarily illuminated at all times on all sides. They have even more suns than the four which grace the recently discovered planet PH1. Asimov’s planet has six.

Total darkness is unknown, and as a result so are stars outside the 6-star system. Their scientists predict that once every 2049 years a brief “night” will occur. Since the current population has never experienced universal darkness, the scientists conclude that the darkness itself would traumatize the people, and that the inhabitants of the planet must prepare accordingly.

But when night falls the scientists themselves get a surprise. Together with the rest of the population they are presented with the spectacle of a black sky filled with hitherto-invisible stars. The short story does not dramatize subsequent events, but in 1990 Asimov (with Robert Silverberg) adapted it into a novel, in which civil disorder breaks out, cities are destroyed in massive fires, competing groups try to seize control, and civilization collapses.

I've taken this from the plot summary in Wikipedia. I must get hold of this story.