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Pluto TV rally held at UCLA calls for Pluto’s ‘planned planethood’

Catherine Povinelli, executive assistant to the chief product and technology officer of Paramount Streaming, gestures toward a crowd of ralliers with megaphone in hand. Streaming service Pluto TV, which is owned by Paramount Streaming, hosted a rally Monday in honor of its 10th anniversary to call for Pluto’s reinstating as a planet. (Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Zoya Alam

April 2, 2024 7:04 p.m.

This post was updated April 2 at 8:41 p.m.

April Fools’ Day or not, “Big Planet Energy” radiated throughout Bruin Plaza as a few dozen Pluto TV staff and community members celebrated the streaming service’s 10th anniversary, calling for its namesake to be reinstated as a planet.

The rally kicked off at 11:30 a.m. Monday and included speeches by researcher Alan Stern and Pluto TV associates, as well as a recorded message from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Attendees handed out free chips and T-shirts and encouraged passersby to sign a petition to make Pluto a planet again, chanting slogans including “We can’t make Pluto a planet without you” and “Pluto’s the planet you can’t ignore!”

Stern, the principal investigator of a mission to explore Pluto, said the rally by Pluto TV brought attention to the issue of Pluto not being named as a planet. A 2006 vote from the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from its planetary status given at initial discovery.

“Votes aren’t how science works,” he said. “Nobody votes on anything in science, so this was a bogus process. And in the public mind, because that got so much press and it went so viral, it’s kind of like Pluto’s not a planet. But to scientists, it always has been.”

In geophysics, an object is considered a planet if it is large enough to become sphere-like and does not undergo nuclear fusion – a process where multiple atoms become one and emit light in the process, as stars do, Stern said. Because Pluto fits both criteria, Stern added that he believes it should therefore be considered a planet.

Stern also criticized Tyson in his speech for not taking a clear stance on Pluto’s planethood. In one recording played, Tyson said Pluto should not be named a planet, but in another, he said he considers dwarf planets – which by the IAU’s definition, unlike planets, are unable to clear things out of their path of orbit – to be planets, too.

“Dr. Tyson is talking out of both sides of his mouth,” Stern said in the speech.

Pluto TV staff were also present at the event in honor of the streaming service’s 10th anniversary. Milly Diaz, a 1998 UCLA alumnus and partner marketing lead at Pluto TV, attended with her daughter Sofia Diaz, who held a sign that read, “Pluto never stopped being a planet!”

(Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
A Pluto TV brand ambassador dressed as a potato holds up a sign that reads, “Pluto is my planet!” The streaming service ran a potato-themed commercial during the Super Bowl. (Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

“It’s remarkable to see how far we’ve come since introducing Pluto TV to the world on April Fools’ Day back in 2014. As we mark our 10th anniversary, it’s a fitting tribute to our creativity and innovation,” said Val Kaplan, global senior vice president and head of marketing at Pluto TV, in an emailed statement. “Our Make Pluto a Planet Rally exemplifies this ethos.”

Catherine Povinelli, executive assistant to the chief product and technology officer of Paramount Streaming – which owns and operates Pluto TV – said the planet should receive more recognition.

“It deserves its recognition,” Povinelli said. “Growing up, it was a planet, and it was my favorite planet, and then it was taken away from me.”

Two people dressed as potatoes were also present, a nod to Pluto TV’s recent Super Bowl ad. Ki Nabi, one of the costumed potatoes and a brand ambassador for Pluto TV, said the costumes signify how Pluto TV allows people to sit back and be a couch potato.

A yellow sign reads "Pluto never stopped being a planet!". Participants at the Monday rally said dwarf planets such as Pluto ought to be considered planets. (Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
A yellow sign reads, “Pluto never stopped being a planet!”. Participants at the Monday rally said dwarf planets such as Pluto ought to be considered planets. (Leydi Cris Cobo Cordon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

As rally participants paraded around the plaza with yellow and black signs, passersby were drawn in, including first-year communication and economics student Jiya Singh. She said she had not planned on attending the protest but decided to join when she saw the posters and heard the chants, as she agrees that Pluto should be a planet.

“I think Pluto’s a great entity, and it’s really underrated in the planet world,” Singh said. “Planned planethood.”

Arsheen Seehra, a high school junior touring UCLA, said she joined the rally because she also believes Pluto deserves to be a part of the interstellar community, considering how long it had been part of the solar system.

Milly Diaz added that she felt the vote removing Pluto’s previous planetary status did not consider enough opinions, and she wants the question of Pluto’s planetary status to be brought up to the IAU for a revote.

At the conclusion of his speech, Stern taught the crowd the “Pluto salute,” holding up nine fingers to signify Pluto should be the ninth planet.

“Is a chihuahua a dog? Of course a chihuahua’s a dog. Is a bungalow a home? Of course it’s a home. … Dwarf planets like Pluto are planets, too,” he said in his speech. “Pluto is a planet.”

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