Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has spoken of Kiwis taking the clear night sky for granted ahead of his visit to New Zealand later this year.
DeGrasse Tyson spoke to Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning, saying his life changed the first time he saw the stars as a child having lived in New York and never seeing the night sky clearly.
"You guys down under might take the clear sky for granted but I grew up in NYC where no one has a relationship with the night sky with the tall buildings and the light pollution... and air pollution.
"I was star-struck, and from then on I felt like the universe was calling me and I had no choice in the matter."
It didn't take long for deGrasse Tyson to become an expert on space, as he was giving lectures on science at the age of 15.
"I didn't think of it being unusual at the time. All I was doing was talking about what I had expertise in.
"I knew enough about the universe by then because I'd been interested since age 9, so that was a whole six years of reading and my own telescope work... I'm describing the universe... which had become my backyard, and it was odd that they would pay me for describing something I was so familiar with."
He said improvements in science were being made so rapidly that today's advancements would pale in comparison to those made in the future.
"In another 20 years I'll be looking back at today and saying 'Oh they didn't know anything back then'."
The astrophysicist also made a case for increased federal spending on Nasa, saying even a small increase would have a significant impact.
"One half of one penny on [the US] tax dollar goes to Nasa... they're spending it wisely and quite visibly. If you want to go to Mars and you want to have higher ambitions, sure you'd want to up it. How much is the universe worth for you?"
He is concerned about partisan politics impacting the study of space, and also pointed out the hypocrisy of people who are "actively hostile" towards scientific research while at the same time embracing its benefits.
"At the minimum what I would want is people who are indifferent to it rather than actively hostile to it. If you're indifferent... we can deal with that.
"Meanwhile I bet those same people that are actively hostile are pulling out their smartphones finding directions to wherever they want to go, using GPS satellites, physics, engineering and other technologies to enable that level of convenience, but they say 'Oh I don't like science but hand me my smart phone', what's going on there?"
DeGrasse Tyson will be appearing at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch on July 4, and at Auckland's Spark Arena on July 9.