Everybody loves Neil DeGrasse Tyson. So it’s no surprise that when DC Comics decided that Superman would try to find Krypton in the night sky in an upcoming issue of ACTION COMICS, they thought Mr. Tyson should be the person to help the Man of Steel. (In such a vulnerable moment, it’s important to have support from a friend, right?) What DC wasn’t banking on, I’d wager, was how involved Mr. Tyson would become once he agreed to let them use his likeness: Tyson worked with the writers to find a real star that could serve as a plausible location for Krypton’s sun based on the relatively fuzzy criteria about the planet’s location.
WARNING: The next paragraph will contain some spoilers from ACTION COMICS #14, the issue where Superman and Neil DeGrasse Tyson meet.
In the next issue of ACTION COMICS, it is revealed that Superman has been going to Hayden Planetarium in New York (Tyson’s real-world workplace) to work with a team of astrophysicists, including Tyson, to find Krypton so that he might be able to see his home planet. In the issue, the duo find Krypton’s sun, called Rao in the comic, and Krypton just in time to see them destroyed.
Mr. Tyson, an outspoken advocate of keeping fiction as scientific accurate as possible, suggested to the writers that they find an actual star that, based on Superman’s age, would be far enough away so that the light of Rao’s destruction would be reaching Earth at the right time. After checking his charts, Tyson recommended LHS-2520, a red star that’s about 27 light years away from our planet.
LHS-2520, A.K.A. Rao, is part of a small constellation called Corvus, which can be seen regularly in southern hemisphere, and occasionally in the northern hemisphere under optimal conditions. Comparisons between the fictional version of the star and real thing aren’t perfect. According to Slate, a star with actual orbiting planets would most likely not be visible from Earth, and if it was it would not be able to support life. (Of course, Tyson had an explanation for this: Krypton, when it was around, was geologically active.)
By choosing that star, not only did Tyson lock down Superman’s official age, which was apparently “nebulous,” he gave Superman fans the ability to find a little piece of Superman mythology in the real world.
- Neil DeGrasse Tyson on being a meme.
- Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Prometheus.
- Info on Tyson’s upcoming TV show, a reboot of Cosmos on Fox.