Brian May completed most of his PhD in Astrophysics in Jim Ring's group at Imperial College in 1970-4. Previously he had completed his degree in Physics at Imperial. As far back as 1968 he had formed a band called 'Smile' with Tim Staffell and Roger Taylor, which after the departure of Tim Stafell and with the addition of Freddie Mercury and John Deacon, became 'Queen'. With the launch of the 'Queen II' album in 1974, Queen started to have an international success, and Brian abandoned his PhD.
Despite the demands of Queen, Brian retained his love of astronomy, and appeared regularly on Patrick Moore's TV programme 'Sky at Night'. Following published interviews in 2006 in which he talked about wanting to complete his PhD, the Head of Astrophysics at Imperial at the time, Michael
Rowan-Robinson, contacted Brian to suggest he might like to come and talk about this. Brian responded enthusiastically and he was re-registered for his PhD, under Michael's supervision, from October 1st 2006. At the time Brian estimated it would take him two years to complete, but he in fact submitted his revised PhD on August 2nd 2007. As well as writing up the work he had done in 1970-4, observations of the kinematics of the zodiacal dust cloud made from the island of Tenerife, Brian also had to review the work on zodiacal dust during the intervening 33 years, which included the discovery of the zodiacal dust bands by the IRAS infrared astronomical satellite. After a viva on Aug 23rd, the revised thesis was approved on Sept 24th 2007, almost exactly 37 years after it had been commenced.
Brian was appointed a Visiting Researcher at Imperial on Oct 1st 2007 and retains an interest in zodiacal dust research. He took part in a workshop at Imperial in Oct 2008, during which a new instrument, ZODIACS, to be built in collaboration with the University of Florida, was discussed. There was also a presentation on modelling of zodiacal emission in the Planck mission data. He had given a talk on his work at the conference "From IRAS to Herschel and Planck" held at the Royal Astronomical Society, London, in July 2007, in honour of Michael Rowan-Robinson's 65th birthday. Brian's talk ended with a superb animation of the solar system accompanied by guitar music from his one of his solo albums.
He continues his interest in astronomy and involvement with the Imperial Astrophysics Group.
His publications include:
Hicks, May, & Reay, 1972, Nature 240, 401
Hicks, May, & Reay, 1974, MNRAS 166, 439
'Bang! The Complete History of the Universe', Brian May, Patrick Moore, Chris Lintoff (Carlton Books 2006)
PhD Thesis, 2007, Imperial College London
'A Village Lost and Found:"Scenes in Our Village" by T.R.Williams. An annotated tour of the 1850s series of Stereo Photographs' (Frances Lincoln, 2009) - early stereo photography is one of Brian's other passions. You can check out Brian's stereo astro cards at the London Stereoscopic Company site.