While systematically photographing the sky to detect exploding supernovae a young astronomer on Palomar discovers a myseterious black cloud south of the constellation of Orion. Almost simultaneously British astronomers deduce, from discrepancies in the positions of Jupiter and Saturn, that a major unknown body is entering our Solar System. Further observations and analysis indicate that this vast cloud of interstellar gas will pass between the earth and the sun, shutting off the sun's rays and bringing about incalculable changes on our planet.
At a closely guarded center outside of London an international group of scientists headed by Cambridge astronomer Chris Kingsley advises the British government on the fantastic problems created by the cloud. As months go by and one catastrophe succeeds another the scientists become less and less content to remain purely advisory. The conflicts between government officials and scientists provide a human and humorous element in this alarming story.
Sir Fred Hoyle FRS (1915–2001) was an English astronomer noted primarily for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters – in particular his rejection of the "Big Bang" theory as originally coined by him.
In addition to his work as an astronomer, Hoyle was a writer of science fiction, including a number of books co-written with his son Geoffrey Hoyle.
Hoyle spent most of his working life at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge and served as its director for a number of years. He died in Bournemouth, England, after a series of strokes.