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"Science must go on"

08/10/2007

An astronomer retakes his doctoral thesis after a career in a world-famous rock band. It could be a far-fetched Hollywood movie but, once again, truth proves to be stranger than fiction. Science and art come together, Brian May comes back to the telescope.

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    For the legendary Queen guitarist, the disciplines of astronomy and music are not so far apart, "music and astronomy are both pure and born of the soul. They have helped the human race to evolve, now it is our turn to take them to the limit. You could even go so far as to say that they share an artistic spirit."

    It is a milestone in the stars - science must go on!

    First Light at the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS was an enjoyable experience for May. He chatted to the Prince of Asturias and shared a joke about his height. "The Prince is a very funny man and told me that he should be the one paying to have his photograph taken with me. We talked about music, astronomy (...) and he seemed very interested." May also had time to talk to Francisco Sánchez, Director of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias,  (IAC) whom he called "the father of modern Spanish astronomy. He was my boss, a long time ago when I was in the Canaries doing observations for my doctoral thesis. It is a pleasure to meet him again. Francisco Sánchez was always an example to me not just professionally but also, more importantly, in a personal capacity.

    During the evening of the 13th July, Brian May paid tribute to "the incredible team of tecnhicians and engineers who have devoted their lives to the construction of the GTC for the past few years. It is clear for all to see just how close they have become as a team." May also had praise for the island of La Palma, which he said was "a jewel filled with animals and birds... to be seen wheeling over the dome of the telescope. Astronomers are very aware of the environment and keen to protect the natural riches of the island." As an astrophysicist, he said that it was obvious that "the islands are a paradise for astronomers and for anyone who wants to enjoy the sky. La Palma is the perfect location for the future of large telescopes."

    At the GTC, the countdown to frontline science has already begun. A year of commissioning will now take place ahead of Day One, when the telescope will start work with the scientific community. Brian May did not rule out the possibility of using the telescope himself: "The GTC is a fantastic beast, the most incredible feat of engineering I have ever seen and I would be delighted to observe with it. I just need to find the time!" The legendary rock star will be there at the inauguration ceremony, which is set for 2008, and is composing a number of pieces of music for a concert under the stars. "The inauguration of the GTC, the largest the world has ever seen, is an inspiration in itself. The concert will represent the combination of music and astronomy in my life," said May. As the guitarist of the legendary band Queen would say, the show must go on.

    Further information: http://www.brianmay.com/

    TEXT: Susana Pérez Holgueras

    TRANSLATION: Nigel Moore

    Further information on the First Light ceremony (in Spanish):  

    BOLETÍN ESPECIAL DE ASTROFÍSICA EN LA PALMA

    IAC PRESS RELEASES (IN SPANISH).

    El Gran Telescopio CANARIAS deslumbra en su Primera Luz (14/07/2007)

    El Gran Telescopio CANARIAS observa su Primera Luz (12/07/2007)

    Natalia R. Zelman

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