The ’15 Days Of Darkness On Earth’ That The Internet Predicted: Is It Really True?

Posted on September 1, 2015 in Sci-Tech

By Shruti Sonal

Recently a news item dated August 22 has been creating an uproar on the internet, with its claims of a “Blackout” that will occur over 15 days during the month of November. Even as people had already started stacking up DVDs of horror movies and making cheesy plans for candlelight dinners at 12 pm, the news turned out to be a hoax.

solar eclipse
For representation only. Image source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

Just how any article about a scary food habit begins with “Scientists believe that“, every astronomical rumour starts with “NASA confirmed that“. Of course, upon visiting its website, there was no official confirmation. A video about “emergency preparedness” by NASA official Charles Bolden that was doing the rounds turned out to have been recorded earlier in the context of natural disasters.

As The Independent pointed out, such rumours have often been triggered off on social media. Previously, the explanation given for a blackout was that of a “solar storm” that’d cause dust and space debris to become plentiful and block 90% of sunlight. The article went on to point out that although solar storms are a natural phenomenon, they are unlikely to create major disturbances in the Earth’s magnetosphere. To put it simply, they’d cause no more effect than ruffling your hair or throwing a flying bird slightly off balance. In one instance, NASA was forced to come out and debunk the myth of blackout caused by a “photon belt.

Further, to all those who have watched too many Sci-Fi movies and still see the possibility of this happening, I consulted an ACTUAL astrophysicist- Mr. Rajaram Nityananda to confirm this. Even in the scenario that Venus and Jupiter do engage in a “close parallelism“, it’s unlikely that heating up of Venus will cause disturbances on Jupiter. Firstly, Venus has miniscule levels of hydrogen and thus the magnitude of explosion mentioned seems scientifically not possible. Secondly, when the Sun, which has huge amounts of hydrogen and is 115 times bigger than Venus is not able to change the Earth’s atmosphere, the thought of Venus doing the same to Jupiter with a way smaller size and larger distance seems improbable. Moreover, the point that the explosion will cause “Sun’s temperature to increase by 9000 degrees kelvin in an instant” is a cause of concern. Any Tom, Dick and Harry who has done a project on global warming in school knows that a gradual heating up of the Sun is giving experts headache. 9000 degrees Kelvin at once? That’s doomsday stuff. (Alas, I have lost faith in the concept of doomsday after surviving 2012).

However, because all human beings are gifted with a healthy imagination, there’s no harm in picturing an actual blackout. India is likely to be spared, due to the divine light emanating from the various Radhe Maas et al. Other nations might use the opportunity to catch up to our population (and fail). Gulzar might find inspiration to write many more songs about the moon. Modi’s yoga programme will suffer a blow due to exclusion of Surya Namaskar. As streetlights malfunction due to heavy load, Kejriwal and Najeeb Jung will debate under whose authority maintenance of traffic lies. And I will just be sitting around with a grin on my face, watching the world descend into chaos.