Leave it to Neil deGrasse Tyson to drop a fact bomb in the middle of Wednesday's fiercely debated presidential debate.

The astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and host of the PBS program NOVA ScienceNOW took to Twitter last night to take issue with Mitt Romney's plan to defund PBS.

The message was retweeted nearly 48,000 times, as PBS funding suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly became one of the hottest topics of the entire evening.

Reiterating a promise he has repeatedly made on the campaign trail, Romney told debate moderator Jim Lehrer, himself a PBS newscaster, that if elected, the subsidies currently allotted to public broadcasting would be eliminated.

Not that it was anything personal, of course.

“I’m sorry, Jim, I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS," Romney said. "I like PBS, I love Big Bird -- I actually like you too -- but I am not going to keep spending money on things [we have] to borrow money from China to pay for.”

The moment became a viral sensation, with the term "Big Bird" generating more than 17,000 tweets per minute. Big Bird parody accounts were created and Sesame Street-related GIFs exploded.

But Tyson's point cut through the chatter. It was echoed in a Forbes article about PBS funding: For the 2015 fiscal year, Congress has budgeted $445 million for PBS programming, which amounts to less than 1 percent of the federal budget. "Way less," the article indicated.

The funding set aside for Big Bird, Elmo and Jim Lehrer in fact is only about 1/100th of 1 percent of the congressional budget.

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  • "I have flown twice over Mount St. Helens out on our West Coast. I'm not a scientist and I don't know the figures, but I have a suspicion that that one little mountain has probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere of the world than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind that people are so concerned about." - President Ronald Reagan, 1980 Not quite. Cars emit about 81,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per day, while Mount St. Helens emitted only about 2,000 tons.

  • "The internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes." -Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), 2006 The "series of tubes" phrase subsequently became a pop cultural catchphrase--it even has its own <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Series_of_tubes" target="_hplink">Wikipedia page</a> and mentioned in the <a href="http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=a series of tubes" target="_hplink">Urban Dictionary</a>.

  • "And sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good, things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not." - former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska), 2008 The common fruit fly is one of the most commonly used organisms in genetic research. Discoveries such as sex-linked inheritance and techniques such as gene mapping are a result of such research.

  • "Information is moving--you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it's also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets." - President George W. Bush, 2007 The former president went on to use the word "Internets" two more times in public.

  • "Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?" -Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), when asked whether the U.S. climate policy should focus on reducing carbon emissions. Rainforests actually absorb far more carbon dioxide than they emit.

  • "Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human-induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus." - Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia), 2009, at a debate over the Clean Energy and Security Act. Many researchers point to a decline in Arctic sea ice, an increase in droughts, and changing rain and snow patterns as signs of climate change.

  • "What the science says is that temperatures peaked out globally in 1998. So we've gone for 10-plus years where the temperatures have gone down." - Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), 2009 in an interview with conservative radio show host Jay Weber. The mean global temperature has in fact been increasing since 1998.

  • "Mars is essentially in the same orbit [as Earth]....Mars is somewhat the same distance from the sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe." - Dan Quayle, former vice president, commenting on President George H.W. Bush's Space Exploration Initiative as quoted in <em>This New Ocean</em> by William E. Burrows. Actually, Mars completes an orbital revolution around the sun about every 1.88 Earth years, according to NASA.

  • "If it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." - Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri), 2012 In fact, women can become pregnant from rape.

  • "All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell." -Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) 2012 Broun, a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, is a doctor, and would have been taught many of the generally accepted principles of evolution and embryology in medical school.