Neil deGrasse Tyson admits that the moment he fell in love with astrophysics came from an embarrassing misunderstanding

Many years ago the world-famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was just a kid in the Bronx without even the hint of a dream to study the universe. But, as he explains to Stephen Colbert, all of that changed one fateful night in Pennsylvania.

On that night, deGrasse Tyson formed what was likely one of his first thoughts about the trillions of stars in our universe — a thought that would revolutionise his life and was actually embarrassingly, as he puts it, incorrect.

Two years before, deGrasse Tyson — whom we now recognise as host of the wildly popular podcast series StarTalk and television series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” — visited the Hayden Planetarium at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History for the first time — the same Hayden Planetarium of which he’s now the director.

There, he saw a projection of the night sky unlike anything he’d ever seen: a sky adorned with countless stars.

“I thought, ‘Well that’s a nice hoax’,” deGrasse Tyson told Colbert. “That can’t be real.”

Then, a couple of years later when he was nine years old and trekking among the secluded mountains in Pennsylvania, he saw the night sky untainted by city lights for the first time. And it, too, had an endless expanse of stars.

That’s when everything began to fall into place:

“What is an embarrasingly urban thought: I look up at the night sky from the finest mountain tops in the world and … I say, ‘It reminds me of the Hayden Planetarium,'” deGrasse Tyson admitted with a laugh and later added, “But so strong was that imprint that I’m certain that I had no choice in the matter that in fact the universe called me.”

DeGrasse Tyson has not only carved himself a carreer in astrophysics over the following dcades, but he has made it his goal to inspire the rest of us to reach for the stars and awe at the wonders of the cosmos.

Watch the full interview with Stephen Colbert: 

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