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Juno spacecraft is on its final approach to Jupiter

Jupiter and three moons, taken by Juno on June 28, 2016

Juno is closing in on Jupiter, seen with three of its moons in this June 28 picture taken by the spacecraft when it was about 6 million kilometers from the planet.

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All systems are go for the Juno spacecraft’s July 4 encounter with Jupiter.

“We couldn’t be more excited about being this close to Jupiter’s doorstep,” said Diane Brown, Juno program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., during a June 30 news briefing.

The scientific instruments have been shut off and the final command sequence for going into orbit around Jupiter has been uploaded to the spacecraft’s computers. On July 4, the probe will fire its main engine for 35 minutes, using it as a brake to slow down and be captured by Jupiter’s gravity. Once in orbit, Juno will spend 20 months figuring out what’s hiding beneath the thick clouds that encase the planet.

Juno has been busy during its final approach. On June 28, it got one more look at Jupiter and three of its moons. And last week Juno monitored changes in interplanetary plasma (see below) as it crossed a magnetic boundary that shields Jupiter from the stream of charged particles blowing from the sun.

Now all scientists can do is wait. “I have mixed emotions,” said mission lead Scott Bolton, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “I’m excited, but I also have tension and nervousness.” Juno has to perform a critical engine burn all on its own while passing through treacherous belts of radiation that encircle the planet. A series of radio tones from the spacecraft will let mission scientists know whether or not it worked.

“Come see us on July 4,” Bolton said.

Read all of Science News’ coverage of NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter.

Juno recorded vibrations in interplanetary plasma as it crossed Jupiter’s magnetic boundary (the bow shock) on June 24. Play the video to hear that data turned into sound. JPL-Caltech/NASA, SWRI, University of Iowa

Astronomy,, Planetary Science

Asteroid Day is a chance to learn about space and plan for disaster

By Christopher Crockett 1:30pm, June 29, 2016
Asteroid Day on June 30 tries to raise awareness about the hazards of an asteroid impact and what we could do to stop it.
Health,, Microbiology

This week in Zika: vaccine progress, infection insights

By Meghan Rosen 4:31pm, June 28, 2016
Vaccine candidates for Zika virus take a step forward, birth defects span spectrum of problems and doubts about Zika’s link to microcephaly may be extinguished by new reports from Colombia.
Planetary Science

Jupiter shows off its infrared colors

By Christopher Crockett 5:30am, June 28, 2016
Jupiter glows with infrared light in new images taken in preparation for the July 4 arrival of the Juno spacecraft.
Animals,, Paleontology

Insect debris fashion goes back to the Cretaceous

By Helen Thompson 2:00pm, June 24, 2016
Ancient insects covered themselves in dirt and vegetation just as modern ones do, fossils preserved in amber suggest.
Animals,, Neuroscience

Baby birds’ brains selectively respond to dads’ songs

By Helen Thompson 6:00am, June 22, 2016
The neurons of young male birds are more active when listening to songs sung by dad than by strangers, a new study finds.

Tests turn up dicey bagged ice

By Laura Beil 5:56pm, June 17, 2016
Tests of bagged ice found that 19 percent exceeded recommended thresholds for bacterial contamination.
Biomedicine,, Physiology

Stem cells from pig fat aid in growing new bone

By Cassie Martin 6:30am, June 16, 2016
Scientists transform fat stem cells into bone and grow new jaws for minipigs.
Animals,, Genetics

City living shortens great tits' telomeres

By Helen Thompson 12:22pm, June 15, 2016
Great tits raised in urban nests have shorter protective caps on their chromosomes than those raised in rural nests.
Health,, Microbiology

WHO: Very little risk that Brazil’s Olympics will speed Zika’s spread

By Meghan Rosen 5:49pm, June 14, 2016
Olympics not likely to hasten international spread of Zika virus, according to WHO analysis that includes data from previous mass gatherings.

Lemurs sing in sync — until one tries to go solo

By Helen Thompson 4:00pm, June 14, 2016
Indris, a lemur species in Madagascar, sing in synchrony and match rhythm, except for young males trying to stand out.
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