Astrophysicist and musician Brian May, known as the lead guitarist of the band Queen, has ventured into the realm of asteroid exploration. May is collaborating with Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, to co-author a groundbreaking three-dimensional atlas of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which arrived at Bennu in 2018, made history by extracting a sample of the asteroid, which it successfully returned to Earth in April 2021. Now, May and Lauretta are taking on the task of documenting the intricate details of Bennu in their upcoming book, titled “Bennu 3-D: Anatomy of an Asteroid”. This innovative atlas is being hailed as the world’s first complete and stereoscopic representation of an asteroid.
May’s background in physics is a perfect complement to his passion for music. He took a hiatus from his scientific pursuits to form the iconic band Queen, but later returned to complete his doctoral thesis on interplanetary dust. His expertise in the field, combined with Lauretta’s knowledge as a planetary scientist, led the duo to co-author a paper on the formation of top-shaped asteroids like Bennu and Ryugu.
The book itself promises to be a masterpiece, incorporating 120 illustrations, 50 maps, and 80 stereoscopic shots of Bennu. May’s interest in stereoscopic photography has allowed him to apply this technology to asteroid exploration, providing readers with a unique and immersive experience.
Bennu, classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid, is constantly monitored by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies. The recent success of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which involved crashing a spacecraft into a small asteroid, has highlighted the use of kinetic impactors to defend Earth from potential threats. The study of Bennu’s samples, set to return to Earth in September, could provide crucial insights into the formation of asteroids and the solar system as a whole.
As the release of “Bennu 3-D: Anatomy of an Asteroid” draws near, anticipation is building among astronomers, space enthusiasts, and fans of Brian May’s music. The collaboration between May and Lauretta represents the intersection of science, art, and human curiosity, reminding us of the vast wonders waiting to be discovered beyond our own planet.
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