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New Horizons recovers from overload, is on track for Pluto flyby

Pluto

THE OTHER RED PLANET Pluto’s ruddy surface comes into view in a close-up taken on July 3, 12.5 million kilometers from the dwarf planet.

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The New Horizons spacecraft sent back three of the most detailed images of Pluto to date shortly before the probe entered a safe mode on July 4. The pictures, taken when New Horizons was about 13 million kilometers from the dwarf planet, show three different swaths of the icy surface as Pluto slowly rotated on its axis.

At about 2 p.m. Eastern on July 4, mission control lost contact with New Horizons. The computer was compressing recently acquired data at the same time that mission control was uploading the sequence of commands needed for the July 14 Pluto flyby, mission scientists reported at a July 6 news conference. The overload of activity prompted the spacecraft to temporarily put itself into safe mode, in which the spacecraft it points its antenna toward Earth and awaits further instructions.

“New Horizons is operating flawlessly and is on course,” said Alan Stern, the mission’s principal investigator. The final command sequence has been uploaded and is ready to execute starting July 7. “All early indications are that Pluto isn't going to let us down.”

3 views of pluto, July 1-3, 2015

Animals,, Biophysics,, Evolution

Why seahorses have square tails

By Susan Milius 2:34pm, July 2, 2015
3-D printed seahorse tails reveal possible benefits of square cross-sections for armor and gripping.
Planetary Science

Pluto may have spots the size of Missouri

By Christopher Crockett 12:10pm, July 2, 2015
Dark spots emerge on the surface of Pluto in recent images from the New Horizons spacecraft.
Molecular Evolution,, Animals

Genetic tweak hints at why mammoths loved the cold

By Tina Hesman Saey 12:00pm, July 2, 2015
An altered temperature sensor helped mammoths adapt to the cold.
Animals,, Evolution

Flatworm can self-fertilize by stabbing itself in the head

By Susan Milius 3:11pm, July 1, 2015
Hermaphroditic flatworms with hypodermic-style mating get sharp with themselves.
Health

Clot-snatching stroke treatment gets the green light

By Ashley Yeager 4:42pm, June 30, 2015
Snatching blood clots from the brain with a wire mesh stent is a new stroke treatment that is now supported in the United States.
Neuroscience

Old fruit flies’ swagger restored with brain chemical dopamine

By Laura Sanders 2:34pm, June 30, 2015
Replenishing the chemical communicator dopamine to a handful of nerve cells makes old flies feel frisky again.
Earth,, Technology

Leap second helps us with the reality of time

By Christopher Crockett 6:00am, June 30, 2015
A leap second will be inserted at the end of the day on June 30.
Neuroscience

Pain may come in his and hers

By Laura Sanders 11:59am, June 29, 2015
Males and females rely on different kinds of cells to carry pain signals, a mouse study suggests.
Astronomy

Advice to a baby planet: Avoid black holes

By Christopher Crockett 11:00am, June 26, 2015
A dust cloud looping around the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole might have once been an infant planet.
Plants,, Health

Poppy yields the final secret to making morphine

By Bethany Brookshire 4:08pm, June 25, 2015
Scientists have successfully transplanted most of the morphine synthesis pathway from poppies to yeast. Now the final step is ready to be put in place.
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