Neil deGrasse Tyson Is Happy to Be a Nerd Sex Symbol

"I'm happy to serve as a conduit to the cosmos," says the astrophysicist, whose fans think he's out of this world

Photo: Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Not since Steve Urkel’s suave alter ego Stefan has there been a man of science in pop culture who also happens to be crush-worthy. Enter the new host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

At age 55 and married with two teenage kids, the esteemed astrophysicist might not seem like the typical heartthrob. But truth be told, he has a host of admirers.

“It started about 14 years and 25 pounds ago,” Tyson tells PEOPLE. “In 2000, I was featured in PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive issue as the Sexiest Astrophysicist.” Despite the accolade, “I didn’t get big-headed about that,” Tyson says, laughing. “You know, considering the category, it’s not like I was the sexiest action star or anything.”

Nowadays, Tyson, whose new show on Fox and National Geographic takes viewers on a virtual tour through the universe, says he encounters a number of starstruck admirers, mostly via Twitter.

“I’ll Tweet something that’s interesting and a little bit mind-blowing, and I’ll get responses like, ‘I just had a nerd-gasm,’ ” Tyson quips with a chuckle. “I say, whatever gets people interested in the universe! I’m happy to serve as a conduit to the cosmos.”

But of course, there’s a scientific explanation behind his fans’ affection.

“When you tell people something that’s intellectually delectable, they can feel sensually towards it,” says Tyson. “But I think at the end of the day, the object of their affection is the universe.”

Aside from being swoon-worthy (scientifically speaking), Tyson says he’s just happy to be doing what he loves.

“I’m an educator and a scientist, and the show allows me to educate the public about science,” he says. “What more could I ask for?”

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