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Voyager 2 images of Uranus (L) and Neptune (R).

Uranus (left) and Neptune (right) as seen by Voyager 2, the only probed to have visited the planets.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (L) and NASA (R)

Scientists scramble to book flight to Uranus

An imminent planetary alignment of Neptune, Uranus and Jupiter means now is the right time to plan a trip to the ice giants. The rare celestial arrangement occurs next in the early 2030s; that’s a tight deadline for planetary scientists eager to seize the opportunity to study the least-explored planets in the Solar System. NASA’s Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have visited Uranus and Neptune, with brief fly-bys in the 1980s.

Nature | 5 min read

Journey to the giants. Graphic showing the mission's schedule.

Source: NASA

Honeywell launches quantum computer

Tech-focused conglomerate Honeywell has announced that it will make a quantum computer available for cloud-based commercial experiments within three months. Honeywell says its machine will be the world’s most powerful, in terms of a benchmark called quantum volume. “This is not a science project,” says Tony Uttley, president of Honeywell’s Quantum Solutions group. “We are doing this to be able to demonstrate true value creation for the organizations we’re working with.”

The Register | 6 min read

Reference: Honeywell preprint

Last Ebola patient discharged in DRC

For the first time since the Ebola outbreak was declared in August 2018, there are no active cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The discharge of patient Semida Masika from a hospital in Beni was celebrated by hospital staff who sang, danced and drummed. The DRC has now gone 14 days without any new confirmed cases. The outbreak can be declared over after 42 days — but a single case in the tumultuous region could reignite it, warned the World Health Organization.

Reuters | 2 min read

COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak

A group of people wearing protective gear and carrying spray bottles.

Officials spray antiseptic solution in Seoul.Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty

The coronavirus drugs we might already have

• China’s biotech companies have geared up to rapidly repurpose existing drugs, already approved to fight other viruses such as HIV, as treatments for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Hundreds of clinical trials are planned or under way, with much of the focus on remdesivir, a candidate drug originally developed to treat the Ebola virus. (Nature Biotechnology | 8 min read)

• In Iran, 23 of the 290 members of parliament have tested positive for COVID-19. The country has temporarily released more than 54,000 inmates in an effort to fight the spread of the disease in its prisons. (BBC | 5 min read)

• COVID-19 is most dangerous for older people and those who are already ill with something else. Preliminary data also suggest that men might be more susceptible than women. (STAT | 11 min read)

Read the latest coronavirus news, continuously updated on Nature.

Notable quotable

“There are signs — in China, for example, where the spread of disease seems to be slowing — that the virus could yet be contained if the right measures are put in place.”

Despite COVID-19’s spread to new countries, the World Health Organization is right to hold back from describing the outbreak as a pandemic, argues a Nature editorial.

Features & opinion

Tough times at EPA prepared me for a PhD

Marine ecologist Rachel Ragnhild Carlson worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for four years before leaving for graduate studies. “Like a rough break-up or an undercooked meal, my stint at the EPA has taken a while to digest,” says Carlson. “What I’ve come away with, however, is the realization that my time there — even, and especially, under the Trump presidency — has given me powerful skills that frequently serve me well as a PhD student.”

Nature | 5 min read

How to get your paper noticed

In this four-part podcast series, researchers explore the stages of writing a top-notch paper. In the third episode, they discuss what comes after publication — getting your paper talked about by journalists, the public, your peers and funders.

Nature | 22 min listen

Quote of the day

“Today is my birthday, and I have been given a very good gift from DRC ... This is very good news not just for me, but for the whole world.”

The end of the Ebola outbreak in the DRC is in sight, said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus yesterday during a coronavirus briefing. (CNBC)