An ethereal track by Queen lead guitarist Brian May accompanies the awe-inspiring time-lapse view from NASA's New Horizons flyby of a distant solar system object.
New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern presented the video today (March 15) to cap off a press conference and series of presentations about the object 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule, at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.
The time-lapse, created by New Horizons deputy project scientist John Spencer, a researcher at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, shows the object appearing against the star fields of Sagittarius and growing in size until New Horizons' flyby on New Years' Eve 2018 – New Years' Day 2019, then showing its silhouette as the probe flew beyond.
May has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, and joined the New Horizons team — "scientifically, not musically," Stern said — in 2015, serving as one of the team's stereo image experts.
"This summer, I challenged him to write something around the flyby and the exploration we're doing, and he flatly turned me down and said, 'No, I can't write lyrics because nothing rhymes with Ultima Thule,'" Stern said. "But then he thought better of it, and eventually created this anthem he calls 'New Horizons.'
"Last week, he mixed excerpts of that anthem and the video that John Spencer and his team put together, and it's being released simultaneously today by NASA and by Queen — their PR machine," Stern added. "We're quite proud of it; we think it's another first for New Horizons."
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- Ultima Thule in Pictures: Flyby Views of 2014 MU69 by New Horizons