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I am writing a science fiction story that would greatly benefit from a plot device that causes a large localized darkness effect. I'm aiming to get at least 3 days of darkness that covers a significant land-area. Think the size of a large state, or small country. This effect can't be caused by intelligent life. Something rather natural is required. I was hoping to have it be an extremely irregular event, if it had to happen more than once. Things I've considered (but may not work):

  • A multi-day solar eclipse
  • Extremely dense cloud-cover/weather phenomenon
  • Insect swarm

I would like to keep the side-effects down, however. Most insect-related effects would gum up the works and preoccupy the characters. What ways can I create such a large-scale, long-lasting darkness effect on an alien planet?

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    $\begingroup$ You could see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightfall_(Asimov_novelette_and_novel) a novel where the world only has darkness occasionally due to a giant moon that is otherwise not noticed eclipsing the one star in the sky at a time. I don't know if this would help you, though. $\endgroup$ – Jarred Allen Feb 15 '17 at 5:21
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    $\begingroup$ I read the title as How to cause widespread Dankness and thought to myself: "Meme Breaks instead of Commercial Breaks!" $\endgroup$ – F.P Feb 15 '17 at 11:29
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It has already happened on our planet: big vulcanic eruptions can cast night darkness on large areas. See Krakatoa or Vesuvius eruptions.

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    $\begingroup$ Was about to say this. See also the year without a summer. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 16 '17 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, yes. It's a dirty way of doing it, but I think I can make some large-scale volcanism work pretty well. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Tas Feb 16 '17 at 4:03
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Millions of years before your story starts, a rogue planet rushed through a cloud of stellar dust which had previously rested, in relative motionlessness, just outside the gravity well of your system's primary star. The rogue planet was travelling on a glancing trajectory to your solar system's gravity well and it had enough momentum to resist the downward pull. It escaped to continue its journey across the empty void.

...but the dust was not so lucky.

Massive quantities of minuscule stellar particles were attracted to the rogue planet's gravity as it rushed on by, but most of those fickle followers lost interest in the rogue as it briefly parried with the distant sun's call. By the trillions, the dust particles choose to seek the distant sun instead. In the wake of the planet's passing, an enormous river of dust began a slow fall sun-ward.

Yesterday, the leading edge of that river crossed your occupied planet's orbit; passing close enough that its continuing fall placed it between your planet and the sun. A deepening twilight spread across your world as the leading edge was followed by ever thickening waves of dust. Within an hour, the sun was paler than a sliver moon. Soon after that, the sun vanished entirely.

As your story begins to unfold, the river of dust continues to flow by. From planet side, no one can tell how thick or how long the river has become. It may take days for the planet to pass from within the river's obsidian shroud,

...but it just as likely could take weeks or even months.

Only the Shadow knows.

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    $\begingroup$ This is interesting and well-written but incredibly difficult in premise - the likelihood is near 0 and the rogue planet may disturb the main world's orbit substantially in the process. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Feb 16 '17 at 0:38
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that the likelihood is near zero, which I figured is what the OP asked for when they said, "I was hoping to have it be an extremely irregular event". As for the rogue planet disturbing the main world's orbit, maybe my writing wasn't as clear as it should have been. The rogue planet's passing by this solar system happened several millions of years ago and out at the extreme edge of the solar system's gravity well, equivalent to where the ort cloud starts in our system, sol. The rogue planet never gets close enough to the inner planets to disturb any of their orbits. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Feb 16 '17 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ I like the dust idea. I hadn't thought of that. Would it perhaps be more plausible if there was some sort of "belt" of dust between a couple of rocky planets? It would be like a mini asteroid belt. If the orbits were not precisely aligned, then it should be a bi-annual eclipse of a sizable chunk of time... That belt would need to be so massive, though. $\endgroup$ – Tas Feb 16 '17 at 3:42
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds good. Hope it works for you. You might want to ask on this or the astrology exchange if a stable asteroid belt can exist between a primary and its Goldilocks zone (where your planet will likely be). That is way beyond my science grades.. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Feb 16 '17 at 4:04

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