Queen guitarist Brian May released a new song celebrating NASA's historic visit to the farthest object ever explored - take a listen

Queen guitarist Brian May released a new song celebrating NASA's historic visit to the farthest object ever explored - take a listen

Brian May

Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP

Guitarist Brian May, of Queen, performs live on stage at the Verizon Center on Monday, July 31, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

  • MU69, also called Ultima Thule, is more than 4 billion miles away from Earth, making it the farthest object ever explored.
  • Queen guitarist Brian May released a new song, "New Horizons," to celebrate the historic flyby.
  • This is May's first solo release in more than two decades. The guitarist has a PhD in astrophysics and also worked with NASA's New Horizons science team.

On New Year's Day, Queen guitarist Brian May's first solo release in more than two decades.

And it celebrates an achievement of NASA's that was also many years in the making. 

The song, "New Horizons," is about NASA's successful flyby of a mysterious, mountain-sized object that's farther from Earth than anything else humanity has visited. The space rock is formally called 2014 MU69, though it's more commonly known as "Ultima Thule" (a controversial nickname - see editor's note below).

MU69 is more than 4 billion miles away from our planet and 1 billion miles beyond Pluto.


NASA's New Horizons probe, which launched toward Pluto in 2006, successfully flew past MU69 on New Year's Day. When New Horizons set off, nobody knew MU69 even existed. The object was only detected when astronauts upgraded a camera in the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009. After New Horizons completed its mission at Pluto, which it first reached in July 2015, scientists decided to send the probe to this new target.

May, who has a PhD in astrophysics, worked with the New Horizons mission's science team and was asked to write a song for the flyby. May said he was initially reluctant about the task.

"I thought this is going to be hard, because I can't think of anything that rhymes with Ultima Thule," he said, according to The New York Times

The song he came up with begins with words from the late physicist Stephen Hawking, who recorded a video message when the NASA probe flew by Pluto. In the quote, Hawking said: "The revelations of New Horizons may help us to understand better how our solar system was formed."

Here's the full song:

At a news conference, the guitarist said the song is about the human spirit of adventure and discovery. 

"Gradually it dawned on me that this mission is about human curiosity," May said, according to Florida Today. "It's about the need of mankind to go out there an explore and discover what makes the universe tick and this has been going on since the dawn of time."

That's clear in these lyrics:

"New horizons to explore
New horizons no one's ever seen before
Limitless wonders in a never ending sky
We may never, never reach them, that's why we have to try."

Read more: NASA just released the first close-up photos of the farthest object humanity has ever explored - and it looks like a giant red snowman

The New Horizons probe's first low-resolution pictures of MU69 have revealed that the ancient object formed from two separate ones. It has reddish coloring, which scientists compared to the color of Charon, Pluto's moon.

ultima thule


NASA expects to receive the highest-resolution color photos of MU69 in February, though it may take two years for all of the photos and data to reach Earth.


Data acquired by New Horizons could provide new explanations about the evolution of the solar systems and how planets like Earth formed.

ultima thule new horizons 2014 mu69 kuiper belt nasa jhuapl swri steve gribben

NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

An illustration of NASA's New Horizons probe visiting 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that exists about 1 billion miles beyond Pluto.

"Ultima is the first thing we've been to that is not big enough to have a geological engine like a planet, and also something that's never been warmed greatly by the sun," Alan Stern, who is leading the New Horizons mission, previously told Business Insider. "It's like a time capsule from 4.5 billion years ago. That's what makes it so special."


Dave Mosher contributed reporting to this story.


Editor's note: After a public campaign, the New Horizons team selected Ultima Thule as a nickname for (486958) 2014 MU69. However, we've de-emphasized it here because the Nazi party used the word "Thule" as a tenet of its ideology.