Since his first trip to a planetarium at the age of 9, Neil deGrasse Tyson has seen something special in the stars. Gayle talks with Neil about his work as an astrophysicist and becoming one of TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2007.
As a city kid who grew up in the Bronx, Neil says that the night sky was often hidden by lights and pollution. His first trip to the Hayden Planetarium in New York's American Museum of Natural History was an eye-opening experience. "I saw the sky and I thought it was a hoax," he says. "I said 'The real sky doesn't look like this. I know what it looks like—I have seen it from the Bronx and it has 12 stars in it.'" Soon after, on a trip outside of the city, Neil says he saw a clear view of the night sky and realized that the planetarium wasn't a hoax…and from then on he was hooked on science.
Now the director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of PBS's NOVA scienceNOW, Neil says he enjoys explaining the fascinating world of science to others. "I want to try to raise the level of science literacy a notch or two the best I can," he says. "I try to show the public that chemistry, biology, physics, astrophysics is life. It is not some separate subject that you have to be pulled into a corner to be taught about."
Neil's excitement and passion for his work recently landed him a spot on TIME magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of 2007. Neil says that it isn't difficult to get people to enjoy science. "It is fundamentally interesting stuff and all you have to do is guide the viewer, guide the listener to the interesting parts, and then their natural urge to learn and to be enlightened kicks in."