What began as a DC comics writer simply consulting an astrophysicist to make sure the science in his story was believable turned into every science nerd’s dream come true.
According to the Washington Post, the need for scientific guidance first came when the writer began thinking about the distance between Earth and Krypton, and how even years after its destruction, its light would still be making the trek across the universe toward Earth for us to see. If you’re going to bring that up in a story, it’s a good idea to know where in the universe Krypton resides.
By using facts already established in past issues about Superman, Tyson was able to not only determine where in the universe Krypton should be, but actually find a planet to play the role of Krypton itself. The new Action comics had already laid out important elements of the planet: Superman is 27 years old because it took him 27 light years to travel to Earth from his home planet, and Krypton’s star is a red dwarf that’s just slightly smaller and cooler than our sun. Neil and his astrophysicist buddies simply looked around for a solar system matching those characteristics, and boom. Krypton — or at least a sun that fits the mold for where a Krypton-like planet would be.
You can watch this video to see the step-by-step method they used. The coolest thing to me is that they found the star (on purpose or accident, I’m not sure) in the Corvus, or “crow” constellation, which matches Superman’s high school mascot. For those well-versed in astronomy, Tyson gave these coordinates:
Right Ascension: 12 hours 10 minutes 5.77 seconds
Declination: -15 degrees 4 minutes 17.9 seconds
Proper Motion: 0.76 arcseconds per year, along 172.94 degrees from due north.
And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you go to out and buy the issue — it’s Action Comics #14. Neil de Grasse Tyson, you guys!!
This made me happy.