In pursuit of Superman's home planet

04:44, Nov 14 2012
Superman's home planet Krypton is believed to have exploded.

Every self-respecting geek knows that Superman was sent to Earth right before his home planet of Krypton exploded.

It's also part of comic-book lore that Krypton orbited a red star, as the switch to our yellow star's light is supposedly what imbues Superman with his powers.

Now, astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has used his power of scientific reasoning to help pin down a real-life red star that might have hosted the home of the Man of Steel.

Red stars can range in size from dim dwarfs to mighty supergiants, but as astronomer Phil Plait explains in Discover magazine, the lifetime of a red supergiant would probably be too short for the advanced Kryptonian civilisation to emerge, while known red giants are too far away from Earth to fit with Superman's back story. That means Krypton had to orbit a red dwarf, which can be older and closer.

Putting together colour, size and distance, Tyson has chosen the red dwarf LHS 2520, which is smaller and cooler than our sun and lies about 27 light-years away in the constellation Corvus.

In Action Comics No. 14, Superman visits the Hayden Planetarium to observe his home star system with Tyson's help — presumably to vanquish some kind of interstellar evil. Plait offers one clue to the plot: Superman is 27 years old in the comic.


LHS 2520 isn't visible to the naked eye, but if you have a telescope and would like to take a look for yourself, the coordinates for the star are:

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.

- Bloomberg