a

brian news

MAY 2007

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**Sun 13 May 07**
MAY'S 24-HOUR GUARD FROM PSYCHO

EDITORIAL NOTE:

We would make it very clear that the Sunday Mirror published this news item against Brian May's will, but are in the business of selling papers. Brian's preference would have been to have kept this private, which would have been kinder to all concerned.

SUNDAY MIRROR
13 May 2007

24-HR GUARD AS DERANGED MAN HUNTS QUEEN STAR
By Justin Penrose Crime Correspondent 13/05/2007

Click opposite for larger view

ROCK star Brian May was under 24-hour security watch last night after a deranged man announced he was setting off to murder him - then disappeared.

Police are hunting for a schizophrenic who left a letter behind at his home blaming the Queen guitarist for his illness.

In it the man - who we are not naming at the request of the police - said May was an "impostor" and that HE was the real rock star. He signed the letter "Brian May".

He also left disturbing poetry about wanting to kill 59-year-old May. The 28-year-old was last seen on May 2 by staff from the Highways Agency walking by the M42, close to his home in the West Midlands.

He said he was "going to London", where May lives with wife Anita Dobson.

Cops found the letter at the man's home after his worried father told them his son was missing.

May was told of its contents and on police advice brought in 24-hour security at his £2.5million London mansion.

Police have been told to treat any incident in the street as an emergency.

The man takes medication for his schizophrenia but does not have his drugs with him. One officer said: "This man is clearly not very well. When officers went into his home they found some quite disturbing material that suggested he wanted to kill Brian May. It was written like a contract to kill him."

The officer added: "Although he has no history of violence we cannot ignore threats like this."

A friend of May said: "It's a shock to know that there is somebody out there who wants to harm Brian. But he is now protected round the clock."

Many pop stars have been targeted by the mentally ill.

Geri Halliwell told cops she was being shadowed by a stalker last year, and George Michael had his house broken into and was plagued by e-mails from deranged Lucy Nowak.

The man police are looking for is white, with a pale complexion. He has long dark hair and a big scar on the back of his head.


**Sat 12 May 07**
REPORT: ANITA DOBSON ON IRISH TV

Report from Gary Nolan, Wexford, Ireland, for brianmay.com....

Anita was in Ireland yesterday and today. She was on Irish TV tonight as a guest on the "Late Late Show" on RTE1 hosted by Pat Kenny to promote the Wexford Opera Festival that she is appearing in. It is a chat show something similar to what Terry Wogan/Parkinson.

Tonight she was on for about 10/15 mins and she looked really great, very smartly dressed in a nice suit with a red scarf draped over her shoulders.

Pat introduced her as getting her divorce papers in front of 30 millions viewers and they then showed a clip of Den giving her the papers on the famous Christmas day edition of Eastenders. She got a really great reception from the audience.

A lot of the talk was about EastEnders. She said she had got a great reception from the people of Ireland and that she really enjoyed meeting loads of people in Wexford yesterday and that they were all so freiendly and wanted to all say "Hello" and remembered her.

Pat asked about first night nerves and she mentioned that she was rehearsing her part yesterday down in Wexford (show is done in Dublin) with the cast from the opera and she was a little terrified, she also said something like this (being on any show for the first time) made her nervious. But Pat did want to know about her other areas of interest - but he was really into knowing what basically life was like after EastEnders.

Then Pat mentioned that she was married to Brain and she now has a couple of adopted kids. She said that the youngest, Louise, used to call her "Steppie" (I presume meaning "Step Mother") and that they all get on really great together. She said they [herself and Brian] have been together for something like 20 years and got married 6 years ago and with her part in the Wexford Opera Festival and the musical connections she was really into it.

They then showed a lovely picture of her and Brian (they looked great) and then a picture of her with Freddie (both really having fun). Freddie, she said, was really into opera having done the Barcelona thing with Montsy and she was sure he would have been over here doing something at the festival if things had been different. She also said that Brian will be over here to see her at the opera.

Lastly, Pat asked her about things for the future and she said she thought the she was going to tour with a version of "Hello Dolly". Pat thanked her for taking the time to come on the show and she got a great round of applause from the audience.

.... Then my phone started buzzing with text's from all my friends who know i'm into Queen, letting me know about her being on, asking me why Brian is comeing to my home town etc etc.

So there you have it, my first report...

Gary

© brianmay.com


**Fri 11 May 07**
PRESS RELEASE: CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF SKY AT NIGHT

ENGINEERING NEWS (press release), South Africa
TechTrack - Dr Kelvin Kemm
11 May 2007

On April 24, the world-famous amateur astronomer, Sir Patrick Moore, held a party in his house in the small town of Selsey, in England, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his TV series, The Sky at Night. This programme is in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running TV series in the world.

I telephoned Moore to congratulate him and, as usual, he said how much he would like to come to South Africa again but that he is not very mobile any more. A couple of years ago, he had a knee-replacement operation, which hit him rather hard.

I have known Moore for years and I have great admiration for him. He has managed to take an esoteric subject like astronomy and present it in such a way that it becomes a popular household attraction for young and old.

Moore has written close on one hundred books now, and all of them are beautifully written and illustrated, such that the whole family can gain value.

His Atlas of the Universe which is a really impressive production, contains a photograph taken by me, and credited to me, of the Tswaing Meteorite Centre, just outside Pretoria. It is one of the largest such craters in the world and I took Moore there once when he visited Pretoria.

Just recently, my son went to England and stayed in Moore’s house for a few days. They have been friends too since my son was a little boy and he and Moore would look at the sky together from my garden in Pretoria.

Well, while my son was with Moore, a couple of fellows from the BBC pitched up for an appointment to start writing a script for a BBC documentary to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary. They were all in the lounge and the one BBC fellow said: “Sir Patrick, to get started, can you tell me more about some of the interesting people you have met.”

Sir Patrick started something like: “Well, there was the time when Einstein was playing the violin and I accompanied him on the piano; then I had tea with Orville Wright, the first man to fly a powered aircraft. Then, of course, I had discussions with the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, and later [with] the first American to orbit the earth, John Glenn. Then I discussed moon landings with the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, and . . .” The BBC man laughed and said: “Well, yes, but let us be serious now, I need to write this script.”

Moore said acidly: “I am being serious – I met them all, and I have only started.” In one lifetime, he has met the first man to fly, the first in space, and the first on the moon.

Moore also played cricket for the local team until he was in his seventies. He told me that he was a bowler and did not do too well as a batsman. Well, okay, one can’t be excellent at everything; however, he also composes music.

I have one of his CDs of his compositions played by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. When the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War Two was celebrated with a large ceremonial military parade in London, Moore was asked to write a new march for the parachute battalion, which he did. It was played during the march. Besides the piano, he also plays the xylophone, which he played for Queen Elizabeth at a royal command performance.

The British Post Office has just brought out a commemorative set of postage stamps for his anniversary, which is an honour that is accorded to very few people.

When my son came home from England, he had one odd story. He said that, in passing, Moore had said that his latest book, which has now just been published, had been written together with a rock star who used to play in a band.

That sounded odd and I dismissed it until, a couple of months ago, I opened a local newspaper, to see an item announcing that Moore had just written a new astronomy book together with Brian May, past lead guitarist and songwriter of the star rock band Queen. Brian wrote We will rock you that Sun City used to use in a TV ad.

Well, it turns out that May is actually Dr Brian May and he has a doctorate in astrophysics. He used to do his physics and play the guitar on the side until he joined Queen. He was studying reflected light from interstellar dust and the velocity of dust in the plane of the solar system . . . and then Queen became famous and left him no time for physics and astronomy. Now, Brian has gone back to astrophysics and plays the guitar on the side. By the way, the book is called Bang! The complete history of the Universe. There is a website too – banguniverse.com.

You might see photos in news-papers and magazines of Moore celebrating this fantastic achievement, and, if you do, you will notice that he is never smiling. He told me he refuses to smile for photos because, if he did, he might look like past Prime Minister Edward Heath and that would be too terrible.

I have this weird image of May playing his guitar at Moore’s star-studded BBC astronomy party. I imagine Moore would be smiling!

© brianmay.com


**Wed 09 May 07**
ASTRONOMICAL STUDY IS ROCKING BRIAN'S WORLD

Daily Express
9 May 2007

HAVING famously abandoned his doctorate in astronomy for the pursuit of rock stardom in the Seventies, .... Queen guitarist Brian May has returned to his studies with a vengeance.

Brian, 59, who has regularly appeared alongside Sir Patrick Moore on the long-running BBC series The Sky At Night, explains: [quote from SOAPBOX]

"I volunteered to finish what I started in 1970 [at London's Imperial College]: a PhD in astronomy. It has completely taken over my life. To do my thesis justice, everything has been put on hold, the intensity increasing in the past couple of months to the point where there was simply no time for being a dad, a husband or even a musician, which I have been for the past 35 years since I left my PhD papers in a big trunk at home."

May admits earning his doctorate will finally settle lingering doubts about his academic prowess.

"If I get this title of PhD, and it is by no means a foregone conclusion, I will feel without a trace of a doubt that I have earned it," he says. Good luck.

© brianmay.com


**Wed 09 May 07**
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (3):
SEARCHING FOR THE DARK SIDE

Continuing the fascinating astronomy articles contributed by Brian May, Sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott to the New York Times in March this year....

PART THREE
========

SEARCHING FOR THE DARK SIDE
By DR CHRIS LINTOTT
Wednesday, March 11th 2007


Spiral Galaxy ESO 269-57. (European Southern Observatory)

It is possible to write the history of our increasing knowledge about the universe and our place in it as a series of blows to human pride. We discovered that the Earth and then the Sun are not the center of the universe, that we do not reside at the center of the galaxy and that there is nothing particularly special about our own Milky Way system. The latest such shock is that the kind of matter we – and everything we can see directly – are made of accounts for only a sixth of the total mass in the universe. In the absence of knowledge, we label the rest as “dark matter” and look to detect it via its effects on what we can see.

We have long known that there is more to our universe than we can see. The great eccentric of American astronomy, Fritz Zwicky, realised in 1930 that the galaxies within galaxy clusters were moving more rapidly than they should be. The only explanation was to assume that there was more matter present than scientists had thought, so that the increased gravitational attraction could prevent the galaxies from escaping. A similar problem exists on the scale of individual galaxies; if only the visible disk of a galaxy such as the Milky Way existed, the galaxy would fly apart in just a few million years. The solution is the same; if the Milky Way is embedded in a halo of dark matter, then all is well.

What is this dark matter? We know very little about it; whatever it is, it interacts via its gravitational attraction with normal matter, but not with light. For a while the best candidates were objects such as black holes, or free-floating planets in the Milky Way halo, but searches for the effect that such objects would be expected to have on background stars showed that very few exist. Instead, most cosmologists now believe that dark matter is composed of slow-moving exotic particles that have yet to be identified.

Such a situation is unsatisfactory to say the least. Although particle physicists are working on the problem, and experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider, a subatomic-particle accelerator being built at CERN in Geneva may identify dark matter candidates, it is embarrassing not to know what the main component of the universe is. The alternative is to assume that there is something wrong with our knowledge of gravity, and that the work of Einstein needs revising.


The matter of the Bullet Cluster. (NASA)

Theories that attempt to do just that have been somewhat successful. The current battleground is known, appropriately enough, as the Bullet Cluster of galaxies. The picture above needs a little explanation; the pink is emission from hot gas within the cluster, seen in X-rays. The blue region represents the underlying mass distribution, as determined by studying the distortion in the shape of the background galaxies as light passes through the Bullet Cluster in the foreground.

The Bullet Cluster is actually two clusters of galaxies in collision. As they hit, the gas contained within each interacts and heats up, leading to the X-ray emission we observe, and the gas slowing down. The dark matter, however, interacts only via gravity – a much weaker force – and so overshoots the center. This cluster is important because it allows us to actually see the difference in behavior between ordinary and dark matter.

These observations are a stringent test for theorists attempting to dispose of dark matter, but I for one hope they succeed. It would be tidier, somehow, to lose the enigmatic dark matter, and exciting to discover a successor to Einstein’s relativity. As George Bernard Shaw said in 1930, “Ptolomy invented a universe and it lasted 2000 years. Newton invented a universe and it lasted 200 years. Now Dr. Einstein has invented a new universe, and no one knows how long this one is going to last.”

Previous article: The Sun's Mysterious Family

© brianmay.com


**Sun 07 May 07**
ANITA DOBSON TO APPEAR IN OPERA

Anita Dobson, the wonderfully talented Mrs May, will be delighting Southern Ireland audiences from the end of this month, by appearing her first opera - 'The Silver Lake: A Winter's Fairy-Tale' (Der Silbersee), by Kurt Weill (1900-1950), in which she plays the role of Fron Luber. This play with music in three acts: Deception, Kindness and Betrayal, forms part of the 2007 Wexford Opera Festival. Libretto is by Georg Kaiser, sung in English with subtitles, translation by Rory Bremner, and accompanied by 38-piece orchestra. The production runs from 31 May to 15 June, (6 performances).

Pictured: David Curry, Anita Dobson and Michael Redding.

Wexford Opera Festival
The Silver Lake: A Winter's Fairy-Tale' (Der Silbersee)
By Kurt Weill (1900-1950)

Thurs 31 May, Sun 3, Wed 6, Sat 9, Tues 12, Fri 15 June at 20.00 hrs.
Prices 80 euros and 100 euros.
Venue: Grounds of Johnstown Castle for the World Famous Wexford Festival Opera (Southeast Ireland)

For more information and how to book see:
www.theanitadobsonfanclub.com
and
www.wexfordopera.com

© brianmay.com


**Sun 06 May 07**
SIR PATRICK'S SKY AT NIGHT 50TH ANNIVERSARY AND PARTY

Sir Patrick invites viewers to a party...

Check out the new Sky At Night - tonight at 11.10pm - Sir Patrick reflecting on the past 50 years - includes clip of Brian at the Transit of Venus party in 2004 - and tomorrow on BBC4, 7pm, the programme covers Sir Patrick Moore's party last month, to commemorate an incredible 50 years of The Sky at Night.

From BBC schedules:

The Sky at Night: The 50th Anniversary
Sun 6 May, 23:10 - 23:40
BBC One
Fifty years after the first programme went out Sir Patrick Moore reflects on how astronomy has changed over the last half century, with some amusing clips taken from the programme's archives. [S]

The Sky at Night
Mon 7 May, 19:00 - 19:30
BBC Four
To celebrate the programme's fiftieth anniversary, astronomers from around the world gather in Sir Patrick Moore's home, to reflect on how astronomy has changed over the last half century. [S]

More opportunities to catch these programmes....

The Sky at Night Mon 7 May, 23:25 - 23:55
BBC Four
To celebrate the programme's fiftieth anniversary, astronomers from around the world gather in Sir Patrick Moore's home, to reflect on how astronomy has changed over the last half century. [S]

The Sky at Night Tue 8 May, 02:55 - 03:25
BBC Four
To celebrate the programme's fiftieth anniversary, astronomers from around the world gather in Sir Patrick Moore's home, to reflect on how astronomy has changed over the last half century. [S]

The Sky at Night Sat 12 May, 12:30 - 13:00
BBC Two
Fifty years after the first programme went out Sir Patrick Moore reflects on how astronomy has changed over the last half century, with some amusing clips taken from the programme's archives. [S]

© brianmay.com


**Fri 04 May 07**
BRIAN MAY RULES OUT REALITY TV CASTING

Further to Whatsonstage.com's recent questions to Brian May, there was one further question they didn't ask him originally, which he felt maybe they should.....

Queen’s May Rules Out Reality Casting for WWRY
Date: 4th May 2007

As Any Dream Will Do and Grease Is the Word prepare to go head-to-head in the Saturday night TV ratings for a fifth week in a row tomorrow (6 May 2007), a producer of one of the West End’s long-running blockbuster musicals has attacked reality TV casting and ruled out ever “dumbing down” in such a way.

Queen guitarist Brian May, a co-producer and musical supervisor on We Will Rock You, fashioned around 31 of Queen’s greatest hits, revealed in an interview with Whatsonstage.com that his team have been approached about doing a similar TV programme for their musical, which celebrates its fifth birthday at the West End’s Dominion Theatre this month (See News, 25 Apr 2007).

“We were asked,” said May. “But we said no. We all feel that TV auditioning would be contrary to the spirit of our show. It’s actually an appalling lowering of standards, this whole TV-dominated culture. I promise you will never find us on some panel bullying and ridiculing young performers – I personally detest that kind of thing, and I think it’s a shame that the public puts up with it.”

Programmes like Any Dream Will Do, Grease Is the Word and last year’s prototype, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, are unhelpful and unhealthy for both the performers and the productions involved, according to May. “The idea that you can just pull people in off the streets to audition in public, and cast your show from this process, is a huge insult to all those young men and women who have devoted their whole lives to developing their talents, preparing for performing in a live stage show eight shows a week. How could you possibly expect to get the best performers this way? No self-respecting professional actor or actress would lower themselves to go in for this kind of humiliation. The best actors and singers will stay away.”

We Will Rock You opened to largely damning reviews on 14 May 2002 but defied the critics by going on to become a blockbuster hit, winning five of that year’s audience-voted Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, including Best New Musical. Since then, it has spawned ten international productions and been seen by more than five million people worldwide.

“When you see We Will Rock You, you are watching performers who have dedicated their whole lives to the pursuit of excellence … auditioned with dignity in private, encouraged to find their own way of playing the parts, and very often rising to the leading roles within our company,” says May. “This is the kind of theatre you are supporting when you buy a ticket for We Will Rock You. You are striking a blow against the dumbing down of live theatre.”

Set in the future, We Will Rock You tells the story of a world in which globalisation has meant the death of real music in favour of computer-produced cyber stars, a status quo which the rebel Bohemians, harking back to the Golden Age of rock (embodied by Queen), are trying to overthrow so that they can write and perform their own music. An unintentional hero ends up saving the kids of Planet Mall from the tyrannical Killer Queen and discovers the place of living rock.

The musical has a book by Ben Elton and features 32 of Queen’s greatest hits including "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "Under Pressure", "Radio Gaga" and, of course, "We Will Rock You". It’s directed by Elton, choreographed by Arlene Phillips and designed by Mark Fisher and Willie Williams.

The show’s fifth birthday will be marked on 14 May with a special performance involving May along with Queen’s Roger Taylor and other “special guests”. Previous stars who’ve put in guest appearances in We Will Rock You have included Britney Spears, Beyonce, Pink and McFly. The London production is now booking through to October 2008.

- by Terri Paddock

© brianmay.com


**Thu 03 May 07**
GENUINE BRIAN MAY STRING BRACELETS FOR CHARITY

Brian May's tech, Pete Malandrone, has today confirmed that he sent some of Brian's strings across to Relix a month ago, to be turned into bracelets for their "Wear Your Music" campaign, to benefit a range of charities.

Yes these are genuine.

These are now listed for sale, HERE.

Click image for larger.

Press Release:
30 April 2007

Relix, the magazine for music, today announced the addition of Brian May, lead guitarist and vocalist for the English rock band Queen, to its "Wear Your Music" campaign. This secures a list of guitar legends that have come together to create an outlet for die-hard music fans to wear their idol's strings while benefiting charities all at once. Legends include Brian May, Carlos Santana, Pete Townshend, Les Paul, Dickey Betts, Buddy Guy, Keith Richards, Peter Frampton and Bob Weir. The artists' donated guitar strings are turned into bracelets and sold to benefit more than 20 charities either chosen by the artist or previously chosen by the campaign. The bracelets are available at relixband.com.

Created by noted designer Hannah Garrison of Azu Studio and Relix President/Publisher Steve Bernstein, the Relix Band lets fans wear the strings of icons -- the strings that at one time produced their favorite sounds, around their wrists. In addition to the legends, future icons are on the bill as well including John Mayer, Ben Lee and Zakk Wylde.

Participating artists also include Trey Anastasio, Elvis Costello, The Shins, Tenacious D, Wolfmother, Maroon 5's Adam Levine, Ben Harper, Anna Nalik, Counting Crows, Phil Lesh, Dickey Betts, Mike Gordon, Warren Hayes, Les Claypool, Spearhead front man Michael Franti, Hot Tuna, Ziggy Marley, David Grisman, Keller Williams, moe., Bela Fleck, Umphrey's Mcgee, Slightly Stoopid, and Little Feat. Additional artists are continually being added.

© brianmay.com


**Tue 02 May 07**
MORE 'ROADIE CAM' PHOTOS

A couple more shots have been added to the Roadie Cam on the BrianMayGuitars site. You might like to check out at www.brianmayguitars.co.uk/roadiecam

Enjoy!

© brianmay.com


**Wed 02 May 07**
BRIAN MAY'S UNI IMPERIAL COLLEGE LAUNCHES BOOK OF IT'S HISTORY

Brian May's fomer (and current) university, Imperial College found it's Centenary celebrations taking a literary turn last night with the official launch of The History of Imperial College London 1907-2007, by Senior Research Investigator Dr Hannah Gay.

HISTORY OF IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON, 1907-2007, THE: HIGHER EDUCATION AND RESEARCH IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND MEDICINE: Higher Education and Research in Science, Technology and Medicine
Hardcover / Paperback : 856 pages
Publisher: Imperial College Press
Language English

Last night's launch drew together a range of familiar faces from Imperial's past and present, including former Rectors Lord Oxburgh, Lord Flowers and Sir Eric Ash, all contributors to the book.

Congratulating Dr Gay, current Rector Sir Richard Sykes said: "Hannah has been very successful in not only providing us with a 'grand narrative' but also unearthing some fascinating nuggets about life at Imperial over the years. This book is such an achievement because it tells us not only about Imperial College as an institution, but also about the many different people who have shaped it through their work, study and play."

These people have included 14 Nobel Laureates and former students such as Brian May of Queen, writer HG Wells and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

In addition to the better known figures, the book also covers all aspects of Imperial's development and influence, from its early growth, through its contribution to two world wars to its more recent expansion embracing medicine and interdisciplinary centres.

Read interview with author here.

© brianmay.com


**Wed 02 May 07**
VICKI'S BIRTHDAY


Happier times

Many of you will remember our much-loved young friend, Vicki Moore - an engaging and talented teenager - a much-missed free spirit - who continues to touch lives and inspire, with her philosophy, intelligence and insight beyond her years, but mostly her indomitable courage.

Vicki was also a budding guitarist and songwriter.

Sadly she lost her brave battle against cancer in November 2004, aged just 14, but remains a bright and shining light.

If you haven't been there before, please visit VICKI'S WORLD, which we are proud to host here in her sweet memory. Vicki first met Brian in 2002 at the Dian Fossey Concert for the Mountain Gorilla.

She would have been a beautiful 17-year old today and we just want to mark her birthday by expressing love and good wishes to her and her family.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, VICKI
Angel among angels
"Somewhere beyond the Sun"

Jen (Editor)

© brianmay.com


**Wed 02 May 07**
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (2):
THE SUN'S MYSTERIOUS FAMILY

Continuing the fascinating astronomy articles contributed by Brian May, Sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott to the New York Times in March this year....

PART TWO
=======

THE SUN'S MYSTERIOUS FAMILY
By SIR PATRICK MOORE
Thursday, March 8th 2007

I began regular television broadcasting half a century ago, when we knew much less about the universe than we do now. One of my early programs was devoted to Venus, which I described as the “planet of mystery.” We knew that there was a dense atmosphere, rich in carbon dioxide, but our ignorance of the surface conditions was to all intents and purposes complete. Opinions differed wildly: Venus might be a raging, scorching-hot dust desert; it might be mainly oceanic; the great Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle even believed that it had oil wells far richer than those of Iraq or anywhere else on Earth. It was thought that as a potential colony Venus might be much more promising than Mars, a planet that for many years was thought to have canals.


Victoria Crater as seen from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell)

At least we have found out what Venus is like, and we have finally consigned the canals of Mars to the realm of myth. But this is not to suggest that our information is at all complete; we are still arguing, for instance, about the possibility of life on – or in – the Red Planet. Any living organisms must be very lowly, but it is important to find out whether or not they exist. If they do, it will surely indicate that life will appear wherever conditions are tolerable, and will evolve as far as its environment allows. Remember, we have as yet no proof of the existence of life anywhere beyond Earth.

Opposite: View of Europa from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft

Well, what do you think? I have an open mind; I hope Martian organisms are real, but we must, I feel, wait for a “sample and return” mission before we can decide. Certainly Mars has given us some surprises, but elsewhere there have been greater shocks. Take the Galilean satellites of Jupiter, which once were thought to be rather dull worlds, with little of real note; we expected icy areas, no doubt cratered, but totally inert. It was shattering to find that Io is the most volcanically active world in the solar system, while Europa’s strange crust may lie over an ocean that must be eerie by any standards. Could any form of life survive in such a sunless sea? We have to admit that we do not know.

Saturn’s satellites have been equally surprising. Titan has its methane rivers and its chemical lakes; Saturn’s outermost icy moon, Iapetus, has an equatorial mountain ridge which extends into both hemispheres, one as bright as snow and the other as dark as a blackboard; of the smaller members of the Saturnian family, Mimas has a huge crater making the satellite look uncannily like Darth Vader’s Death Star, while Enceladus, only about 300 miles in diameter, shows us fountains that spread ice crystals in sufficient quantity to produce an extensive ring. We have to ask ourselves how long this activity has been going on, and why a tiny body like Enceladus can continue to spout in this way. Further out, in Neptune’s system, we have another satellite, Triton – smaller than our Moon – where there are nitrogen geysers.


Icy material reaches outward from Enceladus.
(Photo: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Finally, Pluto. When it was discovered in 1930 by my old friend Clyde Tombaugh, it was thought to be comparable in size with the Earth, and was assumed to be a bona fide planet. To the regret of many people, it has had to be demoted, because it is a member of a whole swarm of trans-Neptunian objects which make up what we now call the Kuiper Belt. (It really should be the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, because Kenneth Edgeworth suggested its existence years before Gerard Kuiper did, but today he seems to be, unfairly, forgotten). Pluto is not even the largest known member of the swarm, and the facts cannot be denied. It is a senior Kuiper Belt object – but a planet, it isn’t. Whether it is icy and cratered, or whether it is something different, we will not know until the New Horizons probe – which recently passed Jupiter – reaches it.

Looking back to 1957, I think we must agree that the Sun’s family is as puzzling now as it was then, because each problem solved leads to a host of new ones. No doubt astronomers of half a century hence will say just the same about what we now know. In 2057 I will not be able to take part in the discussions, unless of course I live to the advanced age of 144, but I would dearly like to know what the new problems will be!

Previous article: A Story of Astronomical Importance

© brianmay.com


**Wed 02 May 07**
RANDOM FACTS ON VH1 HONOREES

VH-1 MUSIC FIRST reports:

POST-IT NOTES
Random facts to help get you to the post

Vh1 Rock Honors Honorees

Queen – Brian May has been honored by the Queen of England and given the title Commander of the British Empire (CBE).

© brianmay.com


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