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Queen Guitarist Brian May Was a ‘Science Team Collaborator’ With NASA’s New Horizons Mission To Pluto

Ian Harvey
Photo Credit:  Bill Ingalls / NASA via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA via Getty Images

While astonishing new pictures were being transmitted from Pluto, a rock star rubbed shoulders with his heroes.

As historic data from Pluto came in from NASA’s New Horizons probe in 2015, the team got help in analyzing the data from a new scientific collaborator – Brian May, guitarist from the rock group Queen.

the band Queen
Group portrait of Queen: Roger Taylor, Freddie Mercury, Brian May and John Deason (Photo Credit: Richard E. Aaron / Redferns)

He is best known for the guitar riffs in songs like “We Will Rock You,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Yet May is more than just a famous rock star; he is also an astrophysicist. In May 1974, he enrolled in a PhD program at Imperial College in London. He studied light that reflected off of dust inside the solar system. But at the same time, he was in a band called Queen, which was turning into an international sensation. He put his studies on hold, but he was able to complete his thesis in 2007, 36 years after he became a star.

When New Horizons passed by the planet Pluto in 2015, May stood with the NASA team to help interpret and sort out the new data as it was being transmitted.

New Horizons
New Horizons model, 2008. (Photo Credit: Heritage Art / Heritage Images via Getty Images)

May wrote in a blog post that the Gods of the Underworld must have been with him, because he was there when the first picture was downloaded from the probe.

Besides sifting through images and information that was gathered by New Horizons, May observed the first stereo image of Pluto. A single-lens camera produces images that look like you covered one of your eyes, but a stereo picture can appear to be three-dimensional with the aid of a stereoscope. May also wrote on his blog that he had been a long-time fan of making stereo images, and had been excited for the opportunity to work with the new photographs of Pluto as they came to Earth.

He wrote that, of course, the New Horizon guys were already performing some serious science on the images as they arrive. Yet, he was able to assemble the two images to create the most satisfying stereo view that he could ever remember making.

Image of Pluto
In this handout provided by NASA, Pluto’s largest moon Charon is shown from a distance of 289,000 miles from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, and released July 15, 2015.  (Photo Credit: NASA / APL / SwRI via Getty Images)

More from us: Freddie Mercury Saw the ‘Wayne’s World’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Scene Before His Death… Here’s What He Thought of It

It just goes to show that even rock stars get fan-struck when they get the chance to meet their heroes.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News