Queen Rock legend Brian May launches Space.com astrophotography competition for signed copy of his asteroid book (video)

Editor's note: The competition is now closed. The winning photo of the Super Blood Wolf Moon was taken by Bobby Bristoe and is presented here in our astrophoto of the month story.

LONDON — Queen legend Sir Brian May and NASA's OSIRIS-REx chief scientist Dante Lauretta challenge Space.com readers to photograph objects in the solar system. The prize? A signed copy of their new book about asteroid Bennu.

A venerated rock star and astrophysicist, May cooperated with the team behind NASA's asteroid sample-return mission OSIRIS-REx, helping to find a landing spot on the treacherous surface of asteroid Bennu, a space rock that turned out completely different from what the researchers expected. 

The collaboration spawned the book "Bennu 3-D: Anatomy of an asteroid," the first-ever atlas of an asteroid, that comes full of 3D images created by May. Lauretta and May, who are the book's authors, detailed the collaboration at a recent event in London and generously agreed to donate a copy of the book with a signed plate into Space.com's new astrophotography competition.

Video: Queen's Brian May talks about NASA's OSIRIS-REx and asteroid Bennu book 

"Brian and I would like to invite all Space.com readers to submit their entries into the astrophotography contest and I want to challenge you to take a picture of a solar system object," Lauretta said in a video, launching the competition. 

May added: "If you win, you will get a copy of this book with a special plate that has both our signatures on it, so get to it, okay?"

May, who famously completed his PhD in astrophysics in 2007 after a more than 30-year-long hiatus enforced by Queen's rise to fame in the early 1970s, previously cooperated with other space exploration missions. They include Europe's comet-chaser Rosetta to the comet 67P and NASA's New Horizons mission, which took images of Pluto during its historic first flyby of that world in 2015. In an exclusive interview with Space.com, May said the OSIRIS-REx cooperation, however, asked much more of him than his previous astronomy gigs. 

Bennu 3-D Anatomy of an Asteroid - book cover.

Win a signed copy of Bennu 3-D Anatomy of an Asteroid by submitting your photos of a solar system body into Space.com's astrophotography competition. (Image credit: The University of Arizona Press/London Stereoscopic Company)

"Dante [Lauretta] wanted to involve me at an early stage so we could actually contribute to the conduct of a mission," May told Space.com. "That's the crucial difference."

In the preface of the book, Lauretta explained how crucial May's work was in helping the scientists find a safe-enough landing spot for OSIRIS-Rex to collect a sample from. When the mission first reached its destination, the potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid Bennu, it found none of the smooth beach-like plains the researchers had expected and designed their mission for. The landing, or rather a brief touchdown, was critical for the success of the mission, NASA's first-ever attempt to bring to Earth a piece of an asteroid.

"I was amazed by the results that Brian and his collaborator Claudia Manzoni produced by processing our data in stereo images, allowing us to see Bennu's rugged and rough landscape in glorious 3-D," Lauretta wrote in the book's preface. "Seeing Bennu's surface in this way really brought home the intimidating reality of this asteroid. It was far beyond our initial spacecraft design capabilities. At first, it seemed like our task was impossible, that we were never going to find a suitable location to collect our sample."

Astrophotographers can submit their entries into the competition by email to spacephotos@space.com by Sept. 15. Please include "astrophoto competition" in the subject line to be considered. The Space.com editorial team will select and announce the winner on Sept. 20 in our astrophoto of the month story, four days before OSIRIS-REx delivers its precious cargo to Earth.


SPACE.COM GIVEAWAY: Copy of "Bennu 3-D: Anatomy of an asteroid" with plate insert signed plate by authors Sir Brian May and Dante Lauretta

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HOW TO ENTER: Beginning at 12:00 PM ET on Aug. 8, 2023 ("Event"), visit the Space.com announcement page ("Event Page"), and submit an astrophotography photo to our submission email "spacephotos@space.com" by September 15, 2023 with the subject line "astrophoto competition" and information on the image and its credit. If, for whatever reason, the Event is cancelled or postponed, this giveaway will not occur. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means or by any means which subvert the entry process are void. Limit one (1) entry per person/email. Multiple entries will be void. Entries become the sole property of Sponsor. Entry must not be offensive or inappropriate, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any entry and remove any comment that it determines, in its sole discretion, is not in compliance with these Official Rules or is otherwise not in keeping with Sponsor's image.

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Tereza Pultarova
Senior Writer

Tereza is a London-based science and technology journalist, aspiring fiction writer and amateur gymnast. Originally from Prague, the Czech Republic, she spent the first seven years of her career working as a reporter, script-writer and presenter for various TV programmes of the Czech Public Service Television. She later took a career break to pursue further education and added a Master's in Science from the International Space University, France, to her Bachelor's in Journalism and Master's in Cultural Anthropology from Prague's Charles University. She worked as a reporter at the Engineering and Technology magazine, freelanced for a range of publications including Live Science, Space.com, Professional Engineering, Via Satellite and Space News and served as a maternity cover science editor at the European Space Agency.