Here's a few stories from my pre-BuzzFeed days that made it to the internet. You can also find my old blog basic space at Scientific American, and my monthly column about science on the web for the print edition of BBC Focus magazine at the back of my cupboards somewhere.
The first sign of trouble was the jammed signals from Radio Free Europe into Russia. Next came a spectacular display of northern lights that were visible as far south as Florida and Cuba. Then satellites orbiting the Earth’s poles went on the fritz. Not long after, the massive solar storm began to pummel the Earth itself. In the early morning hours of 13 March 1989, the entire electrical grid in the Canadian province of Quebec collapsed, plunging six million people into a cold winter darkness that would last for nine hours and lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and lost revenues.
Two astronauts float in space, working on the Hubble Space Telescope. Suddenly, a rogue piece of satellite crashes into the Space Shuttle that got them there. Hubble is hit by a piece of debris, too, knocking it out of its orbit. As the Shuttle is destroyed, the robotic arm that astronaut Ryan Stone is tethered to begins spinning out of control. She frantically tries to detach from it, just managing to set herself free. The Shuttle falls and Dr Stone is left floating in space, along with astronaut Matt Kowalsky. Contact with Houston is lost – the two astronauts are alone.
White dwarfs may be dying, but their light could be just right to sustain life as we know it. That could make habitable planets even more common than we think.
Many planet-hunting missions have focused on finding rocky exoplanets around sun-like stars, based on the notion that an exact Earth twin would be a prime breeding ground for alien life.
White dwarfs, by contrast, would seem unlikely hosts. These smouldering cores form when stars around the same mass as our sun reach the end of their lives. First the stars balloon to red giants, then they shed their outer gas layers and leave behind dim, ultradense orbs not much larger than Earth itself.