The Stars Are Going Out

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
the stars are blowing out like candles, danny jane / make a wish make a wish make a wish make a wish make a

"Look," whispered Chuck, and George lifted his eyes to heaven. (There is always a last time for everything.)
Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.

Immediately after the distress of those days
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky...

Jesus, Matthew 24:29, The Bible

The Big Dipper went dark last week. It simply vanished into a field of increasing blackness. And navigators everywhere lost their way.

The news is reporting that there's an increase of suicides among scientists. There are protests going on right now in front of the NASA building in Washington, Jet Propulsion Laboratories, the Kennedy Space Center, and, strangely enough, the Large Hadron Collider. Perhaps they think it has something to do with the stars going out. Who knows. Who cares. At least it's not a Bad Moon Rising, that would ruin the song for all of us.

I think the one I'll miss the most is Cygnus. That's the one my mother always pointed out to me as a child. It went black just before the Big Dipper, though, so the news barely reported it. It's the Cygnus Ater now, the Black Swan.

People are getting worried about when our star is going to go out, plunging us into a neverending night. There are cults springing up everywhere. I saw a guy yesterday who had hastily modified his signboard so it read "The End is Hear." It made me smile, until I heard some people muttering about dark gods and human sacrifices.

The sky is very beautiful tonight, which is something of a paradox. I think I'll watch it from the roof. What's the opposite of stargazing? Darkgazing? Waiting for the light to catch up to us and then fade from existence until there's nothing left but darkness. I think I'll wait for the Black Swan to sweep across the sky, brushing each star with its feathers until it finally reaches us and we can fly across the heavens on its back, our own light lost in the terrible swiftness of its wings.

Sorry. Got a little poetic there. Maybe you'd like to go darkgazing with me some time? It sure beats all those apocalyptic bonfires.

To be more prosaic, this trope is in use when a storyteller shows that The End of the World as We Know It is beginning by having the stars disappear, blinking out one by one, leaving only empty space.

In a fantasy world, where the stars are usually supernatural objects or beings, this makes perfect sense. In the real world, where the stars are giant balls of fusing hydrogen nuclei at distances of many light-years (meaning that, even if they all went out at once, it would be four years before we saw even one of them vanish), it can be considered scientifically inaccurate, but the image is so arresting that Rule of Cool usually trumps science.

Subtrope of Signs of the End Times. Compare Bad Moon Rising.

Examples of The Stars Are Going Out include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Darker than Black, following a weird cataclysm, the stars were replaced by fake ones, with an Alien Sky over Earth. The real stars are still there, just obstructed from view; an unusual circumstance can grant a brief glimpse of the true sky... unless that's an illusion as well. The new stars in the fake sky are all linked to contractors, rising, brightening, fading and falling as the contractors are created, use their powers, and die—more specifically, each contractor has his or her own star, which can be used to check on the status of said contractor for those who know how. Also, the moon is gone.
    • Towards the end of the second season, the moon seems to reappear, which, in a strange inversion, is considered the real sign that everything is about to go pear-shaped in an extremely headache-inducing way. Which is reasonable, since it's actually Shion's backup Earth created before he goes into Hell's Gate to meet Yin, and the only reason the world makes it through that is that Hei got there in time. I think.
  • Bokurano: This serves as a coda to the destruction of the entire universe that contains the defeated parallel Earth. Pure Nightmare Fuel.
  • Hellstar Remina. Astronomers notice the stars disappearing around the titular Planet Eater as it makes its way towards Earth.

Comic Books

  • A Marvel Universe comic book starring Adam Warlock had him battling the Star-Thief who stole not just the stars but the light that had already left them (which is how Warlock knew there was an artificial cause.)
  • Thanos once threatened doing something like this in one of many tirades to his love, Mistress Death. Psycho.
  • In the last issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths, when the Anti-Monitor pulls the last Earth into the anti-matter universe, the entire sky goes black. And then the blackness starts to move and everyone suddenly realizes it's because the entire sky is made up of millions of the Anti-Monitor's shadow monsters. Needless to say, it gets worse before it gets better.
  • In this Donald Duck comic the stars were disapearing from the sky due to some aliens wiping them out to build an intergalactic highway thereafter.
  • In Superman: The Earth Stealers, an energy globe closes around the Earth and the moon, blocking the stars with total darkness.
  • In Nexus, the first time Horatio, the eponymous Nexus, fights another fusion-kaster, Sutta, the energy they draw causes five stars to go out. There's some Continuity Drift, because later, when Horatio fights other fusion-kasters who were canonically more powerful than Sutta, notably Stan, no such thing happens. Still, it was an important event in the story, because it panicked several major governments, notably that of the Cohesive Web, which sent Ursula to Ylum....


  • Obscure Spanish animated film Nocturna uses this to instigate the plot - the young Tim's favorite star has gone out, quickly followed by several others, and he's the only one who seems to have noticed.
  • In Pandorum, the characters wake up from suspended animation to find their Generation Ship has been drifting through space for an untold number of centuries. The villain takes the protagonists to the bridge and shows them that there are no more stars, reasoning that they have been asleep so long that the ship either drifted beyond the edge of the known universe or that all the stars have burned out. Actually, they had crashed on the planet they were headed for and were merely at the bottom of an ocean.


  • Toward the end of The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester, the Villain Protagonist thinks he's safe. The police's case against him has fallen apart and he's poised to take control of the Solar System. As he builds up to the climax of his Nothing Can Stop Me Now speech he happens to look at the sky... and the stars have disappeared. It gets worse.
  • In Lord Byron's poem "Darkness," humanity tears itself apart in a rage of fear and hunger after some incomprehensible force extinguishes every light in the sky. A Level 5 Planetary Extinction follows.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, Ender imagines a nightmare scenario whereby every time someone uses interstellar travel, it extinguishes a star. Because the stars are so far away, humanity wouldn't realise what it was doing until it was thousands of years too late and the stars start disappearing from the sky.
  • The quote comes from Arthur C. Clarke's Nine Billion Names of God where a monastery buys a computer and hires two technicians to automate their order's mission of calculating and writing down all the names of God. They believed that this was the ultimate purpose of the universe and thus when it's over, God will simply shut everything down. The technicians don't believe it and leave on the night the computer will be done to avoid the rush. Just as they're about to depart, they look up... see the page quote above for the rest.
    • And in the Asimov short story, The Last Question, this trope is central to the plot: the titular last question is, basically, how to reverse entropy. AC, the fusion of all human and artificial minds, finally answers it, long after the heat death of the universe. And AC said: "Let there be light!" And there was light--
  • The Star Snuffer is one of the names of the Lone Power in the Young Wizards series. In the third book he blows up a star just because Kit and Nina happen to be in the vicinity, and later starts snuffing entire galaxies just to put pressure on Dairene during their confrontation.
    • At the climax of the first book, he turns off OUR star, i.e., the Sun. Not only is this very bad for Earth in the mid to long term, but the heroes' spellbook can only be read by moonlight - which is, of course, reflected sunlight.
  • Quarantine by Greg Egan: for unknown reasons an impervious sphere instantaneously appears around the solar system, centered on the sun. On Earth people panic as the stars disappear in a circle of darkness that appears from behind the sun and sweeps over the sky.
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the stars going out will be the sign that the chaotic infection of Perimal Darkling has broken its barriers and is overwhelming yet another world.
  • Stars dropping from the sky is one part of the mortal Narnia's end in CS Lewis' The Last Battle, a Shout-Out to the Norse Ragnarok, as well as the earth sinking into the ocean. Since stars in this 'verse are actually glowing people, this makes the world's final hours a bit more brightly-lit and crowded.
  • In Charles Stross's The Atrocity Archives, there's an Alternate Universe where most of the stars are gone because a Cosmic Horror has eaten all the heat from the universe and without the energy to make it expand, the universe has been collapsing in on itself. When the crew enters the universe, the collapse has sped up to be faster than the speed of light and somewhere in the quickly shrinking universe lurks an Ice Giant looking for a way out...
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson begins with the stars vanishing from the night sky - it isn't immediately apocalyptic, but this is still a harbinger of doom as the reason for this is quickly found to be that the Earth has been stuck in a semi-permeable bubble of slow time, meaning that the sun will die within a generation.
  • Happens in the Star Wars novel The Courtship of Princess Leia when the Big Bad activates his Nightcloak satellites. They come back on once the Falcon and company blow up enough of the satellites, though.

These dreams were glacially slow, actionless, featureless hours of empty staring into empty space, hours becoming years that stretched into numberless millennia, as one by one the stars went out. He could do nothing, for there was nothing to do.
Except watch the stars die.
And in their place was left nothing. Not even absence. Only him.

  • While its not the entire sky, the gods of Krynn in the Dragonlance series vanish from the stars in the sky while manifesting on world.
  • David Langford's The Space Eater has a third of the stars in the sky wiped out by an early experiment with wormholes.
  • In T.A. Barron's The Great Tree of Avalon series, only seven stars in the constellation known as the Wizard's Staff are going out. Unfortunately, they're not "going out" as much as releasing hordes of god-soldiers from their prisons.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, around the time the siege of Minas Tirith begins, Sauron (or the Nazgul) create a darkness that not only blots out the stars, but makes it hard to tell when morning has arrived. (Until a rooster crows.)
  • In A Wrinkle in Time and most of its sequels, evil entities such as the Black Thing and the Ecthroi have the power to turn the stars dark.
  • In Fine Structure this happens when John Zhang provokes the Imprisoning God into cutting the solar system off from the rest of the universe to escape the Big Bad.
  • In the Humanx Commonwealth series, the Great Evil is a galaxy-sized Eldritch Abomination that is on a march toward the Milky Way. Scientists of various species throughout galactic history discovered it by examining the "Great Emptiness", a region of space that seemingly contains no stars, galaxies, or other active matter. So, in this case, they're going out because they're being eaten.
  • In The Time Ships, after leaving a colony of humans in the Palaeocene era and returning to his own time the Time Traveller finds that not only is the Earth abandoned but there are very few stars in the sky. Nebogipfel concludes that the descendants of the people they left behind have spread across the galaxy and built Dyson spheres around the majority of stars.
  • There are two examples of this in Dutch author Tais Teng's works - eerily enough, both of them occur in books meant for children. One book involves the battles of a sacred order against creatures pouring into our world through gateways to a planet wrapped in perpetual darkness; it turns out the gateways simply lead to the future, in which the Earth is wrapped in a cosmic dust cloud. Another book cynically ends with an oblivious child getting its hands on a book that fulfills any wish you write in it, and writing, just for fun, "The Sun goes out."
  • In Stephen Baxter's Last Contact, the stars are going out because the big rip is tearing apart the universe starting with the largest structures.
  • In the Lord Darcy story "The Ipswich Phial", a priest describes having witnessed the stars overhead all going out in an instant, only to return a few minutes later. Subverted in that the stars actually still exist: the star-gazing priest has merely been rendered temporarily blind by a top-secret magical effect.
  • Some scenes in Gary Gibson's Final Days takes place 1x10^14 years in the future. By this point most stars have died or been gobbled up by black holes. One character notes that seeing the black sky can turn religious people into The Fundamentalist, or it makes them lose their faith. Atheists, on the other hand, tend to fall on their knees and pray.
  • In the final Narnia book, The Last Battle, the stars fall from the sky as Narnia comes to an end. They don't go out, however: Narnian stars are people, and they land on the ground and go through the door into Heaven with the rest of the characters.
  • In Will Murray's short story "The Sothis Radiant", an astronomer learns that tendrils of energy have been spreading out through the galaxy, causing stars to go nova at an accelerating rate.
  • In the Horus Heresy book The Flight of the Eisenstein we have one of the handful examples of a trope being downplayed in the 40k franchise. Garro sees a single star go out, which leaves a “dark pall over [his] spirit". This occurs shortly before Horus attempts to purge the soon to be traitor legions of would-be loyalists to the emperor.

Live-Action TV

Wilfred Mott: "The stars are going out. Oh my God, The Stars Are Going Out."

    • For added spookiness, this episode was broadcast (in the UK), the week that Arthur C. Clarke died.
    • Far earlier, in "Logopolis", the Master's interference causes a wave of entropy to cause a large portion of the universe to go out, right before the eyes of the TARDIS crew.
    • At the end of "The Pandorica Opens", the stars are going out... Because they're all exploding, along with the TARDIS.
      • In the beginning of "The Big Bang", the stars have all gone out... because they never existed, having all collapsed. Earth only has a sun because it's the TARDIS, exploding; this has resulted in an alternative history where stars as an entity are considered a myth.
    • In Utopia the TARDIS travels 100 trillion years into the future, when all the stars have long ago died of old age and a few planets are maintained in habitable condition by artificial "atmosphere shields".
  • The Twilight Zone episode "I Am the Night--Color Me Black" (which, unfortunately, was not about Batman) had the sun failing to rise on the day of the execution of someone who was wrongly convicted. It gets worse.
    • Actually, as you find out later in the episode... the sun didn't fail to rise. Everywhere else had sunlight. It was the hatred and bigotry of the townspeople against the falsely convicted black man that kept the sunlight away from their town. How does it get worse, you ask? Well... not only do you find out that the sunlight never comes back to that town, but there's a radio broadcast announcing that other towns and cities have started experiencing the same condition of eternal night as well.
  • In one episode of Lexx, the heroes watch in horror as whole groups of stars disappear from the sky as Mantrid's Horde of Alien Locusts - well, robotic ones - consumes them.
    • "There's patches in the sky..."
  • A comparatively light version occurs at the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe in the television version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


  • U2's "One Tree Hill" ("I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky / and the moon has turned red over One Tree Hill") and "The Fly" ("It's no secret that the stars are falling from the sky"); the latter song has been described as "a phone call from Hell".
  • Several songs by Dragon Force (video game) mention this: "The Fire Still Burns" ("And all the stars fall around the world tonight") and "Revolution Deathsquad" ("And the stars fall on the horizon/Onwards and up through the pain"). "Black Winter Night" also has the sun going dark in the sky and the world freezing into "visions of ice".
  • The Midnight Juggernauts song "Dystopia" describes the stars falling out of the sky in a beautiful and terrible spectacle: "Any given minute we're witness to planets falling from on high/Sparkle as they're falling through the twilight sky".
  • The song "If" by Bread includes these lyrics: "If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die, I'd spend the end with you. And when the world was through, Then one by one the stars would all go out, Then you and I would simply fly away."
  • The Genesis song "The Day The Light Went Out" is about Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Something arrives here on Earth and puts out the light... and then, it prepares to feed...

When they went to bed that night no one would have believed
That in the morning, light would not be there
The dark hung heavy on the air like the grip of a jealous man
No place was there known to have been spared
Then panic took control of minds and fear hit everyone
The day the light went out of the daytime sky.

  • The Human League has a song called "The Stars Are Going Out" that appears to be about someone going crazy after the end of a relationship.
  • "Sun's Gone Dim" by Johan Johannson is pretty much exactly this trope.
  • "Stars" by Dubstar: But as the stars are going out / And this stage is full of nothing / And the friends have all but gone / For my life, my God, I'm singing / We'll take our hearts outside / Leave our lives behind / And watch the stars go out...
  • The Ataris' "The Night the Lights Went Out in NYC".
  • Dave Matthews Band's "When the World Ends", in which everything else disappears too.
  • "Stars Gone Out" by Low.
  • Snow Patrol's Warmer Climate uses this in the chorus:

The universe just vanished out of sight
And all the stars collapse behind a pitch black night
And I can barely see your face in front of mine
But it is knowing you are there that makes me fine.

  • The Lights song Drive My Soul begins "Seems somebody put out the moon..."
  • The chorus of Cosmic Love by Florence + the Machine: "The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out."
  • "Messiah Ward", by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds:

We could navigate our position by the stars
But they've taken out the stars
The stars have all gone
I'm glad you've come along

New Media


  • In the Norse Ragnarok, the stars start to fall from the sky and into the sea, and when not even those are left the sky itself falls inwards. The world is reborn eventually, but with new stars and new Gods.
  • In The Bible, parts of the Apocalypse are described as the stars falling and the moon turning to blood. Additionally the sun is supposed to get dimmer for a time too. All of which makes this at least Older Than Feudalism.
    • The Moon turning to blood can be interpreted as a poetic description of a lunar eclipse, which indeed appears blood red. Also the Greek word "aster" does not always mean "naturally occurring nuclear fusion reactor." Planets, asteroids, comets, and even angels could be referred to as "asteroi."

Tabletop Games

  • The origin event of Tékumel in the book and game series Empire of the Petal Throne. A superweapon splits the Tekumel system into a parallel universe where nothing else exists.
  • In one campaign in the Exalted supplement The Autochthonians, by plugging Autochthon into the well of souls, the stars in the sky goes out. Doing so heralds the end of an age, and what happens afterwards is up to the GM, but it could include Autochthon deciding to conquer Creation.
    • While a poetic and suitable for the conclusion of a dramatic and epic quest, it does not mesh too well with the setting in that the stars in Creation are physical bodies of the gods in Heaven. Still, it is possible for the stars to go out in Creation—this of course means the Yozis, Neverborn or such threat to Creation have won; the gods and their champions are dying; and Creation is left to an infinity of suffering or complete nothingness.
      • The stars of creation are not the gods. They are a reflection of the Loom of Fate, a gaint celestial mechanism that governs the fate of creation. Some stars are related to the gods (the sun, the moon and the five planets are under the domain of the setting main gods), but the stars disappearing usually means something is wrong with the Loom.
  • This event forms a crucial part of the background to (and provides the name for) the tabletop RPG Fading Suns. It does not mean the night sky is noticeably dimmer, though—it's the change in brightness of stars having inhabited systems (and subsequent climate change on these worlds) that is the problem.
  • One adventure arc in the Dungeons & Dragons Spelljammer line ended with the stars of a huge invading empire's capital world raining down from the sky. Not as destructive as in other examples, as the "stars" are giant gemstones embedded in the surrounding crystal sphere, and aside from the unlucky folks who got hit by the meteorite shower, all the planet's downtrodden peasants find themselves suddenly rich.

Video Games

  • In Kingdom Hearts, Mickey's letter specifically states that, one by one, the stars are going out as worlds fell to darkness and vanished from the skies of other worlds, so he leaves Disney Castle to find out why.
    • The player is treated to some dialogue and a boss battle while Sora's world is ripped to pieces by the Heartless, and finally everything fades to black. The next time we see Sora, the scene starts with a star falling out of the sky. It gets the point across pretty well.
  • Katamari Damacy; though the stars don't so much "go out" as "were knocked out by a drunken King Of All Cosmos".
    • In the sequel, astronomers and astronauts still express anxiety over there being a nice and thick cluster of stars around Earth, while space is nearly empty everywhere else.
  • In the Backstory to Okami, Amaterasu becomes Sealed Good in a Can, and the twelve constellations of the Chinese Zodiac, gods and children to Amaterasu, all slowly go out in the successive century. She expends a great deal of time and effort throughout the game restoring these (cute and funny) gods in order to regain her full powers. One in particular has a giant catfish eat Rabbit (patron god of the moon) by swallowing the moon's reflection in a lake! Eventually, they are once again snuffed out when Yami, god of darkness and the void, uses the solar eclipse to steal Amaterasu's power. The cutscene showing them all explode into stardust one by one is crushing... as is her triumph once all of Nipon's residents send her enough energy to restore her to full strength, bringing all the constellations back.
  • In Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica, the stars and moons start disappearing when Infel and Nenesha sing Sublimation.
  • In Sonic Battle, Eggman overrides Emerl's current obedience link by demonstrating a massively powerful Wave Motion Gun that wipes out entire chunks of stars in the sky. It doesn't end well.
  • In Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty at the end of Zeratul's vision The dark voice, after consuming all life in the universe then extinguishes all the stars.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the stars in the background at the beginning of Chapter 5 go out in an instant while Pa-Patch is on lookout, signalling the arrival of the ghostly Embers.
  • In Halo 3, one of the last messages from the Librarian to Didact describes her view from Earth as the Flood Zerg Rushed the last parts of Forerunner-controleld space - so many ships were on the move that the stars were literally flicking out as they were repeatedly eclipsed.
  • Played straight in Dark Horizon, or the 'Tarr Chronicles, wherein an inky darkness is literally filling the universe with void, swallowing stars and wiping out most of the known universe. This made for an unusually empty space flight sim; beyond the local star and planets, there's just darkness...

Web Comics

The point is that there are too many stars. It's been freaking me out.

Web Original

Western Animation

Real Life

  • The theory of the Heat Death of the universe. The theory posits that, eventually, the universe will "run down" to a state of no free thermodynamic energy as per the second law of thermodynamics. Basically, the entire universe becomes very, very cold. Close to absolute zero.
    • Connected to this theory is the The Degenerate Era of the Universe, which is believed to come about in 10^14 years (Yes, that is 14 zeroes). Currently we are in the Stelliferous Era, the age of stars and galaxies. During the Degenerate Era, star formation ceases, and any stellar remnants left are either flung from their galaxies, to burn out completely, or are gobbled up by black holes. Heat Death would come along either in 10^100 (10 duotrigintillion, 10 sexdecilliard, or more famously, a googol) or 10^200 years depending on whether or not protons decay. By this time, even the black holes would have long evaporated, and any electron and positrons left would have fused and disappeared.
  • The Big Rip Theory, a recent hypothesis about how the universe might end, posits that the universe will just keep on expanding until everything is too far for any interaction to occur—making the four fundamental forces of the universe (gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces) pretty much stop happening. Galaxies fly apart as the stars pull away, the stars darken and planets disintegrate as their component particles lose all ability to bond, until finally the particles themselves decay into nothingness. But don't worry. According to the authors of the hypothesis all of that's still 50 billion years away from happening, give or take.
    • Even if the Big Rip doesn't happen, every star that exists will eventually die. The universe will grow dark. However, this won't happen for trillions of years, as new stars are being born (in a non biological sense of course) all the time. The catch is there is only a finite amount of hydrogen in a given volume of space and no process that replaces it. Seeing as stars shine by turning hydrogen into other elements that means eventually no new stars. The time scales depend on a lot of hard to measure variables, the trillions of years bit is really just a rough guess at the lower limit.
    • Also, stars that go out may do so in a Gamma Ray Burst, where gamma rays burst out from the poles of the star and just keep going. One such star is pointed toward earth and my have even exploded already, and we'll never know until the Gamma Rays hit us.
    • Eventually—but not all at once—the stars will go out. The universe is not just expanding, but accelerating. It will, in time, accelerate to faster than the speed of light (it's not that distant objects are actually moving that fast, but that space itself it stretching at that speed), at which point light from those objects will no longer reach us. Assuming anything resembling humanity is around by then, the only stars they will have to look at are those of the local group megagalaxy, and most of those will be dim and red by that point...
  • On the other hand, if you live in a sufficiently light-polluted urban area, you might go most of your life having never seen any significant number of stars. Traveling somewhere with less nighttime illumination (or experiencing a regional blackout) might cause a considerable shock; the difference is quite striking in these pictures of the sky over Toronto with and without the city lights.
  • If you have the open source astronomy program Celestia, you can pretend that the stars are going out by slowly decreasing the auto-magnitude setting. Same for the also open source planetarium program Stellarium, in which you can simulate the effects of light pollution
  • A fair number of the stars in our sky are fairly far away - the naked eye can see out to about 2.5 million light years for large stars. Given the speed of light delay, there's a chance that the star you're wishing on is already stellar dust.
  • While the stars may not be going out as soon as fiction claims, the expansion of the universe is still going, and speeding up. Eventually all celestial bodies will be so far away that it will become near impossible to see any stars, even if they are there, because we've spread so far away.