Stephen Colbert has been keeping himself sharp in the interim between The Colbert Report and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert with his funny, topical run of videos recently. For his latest, he expressed his excitement about NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaching Pluto and debated with astrophysicist and Pluto detractor Neil deGrasse Tyson about how “awesome” the dwarf planet actually is.
“After almost a century of near-total mystery, we finally know what Pluto looks like: a malted milk ball left in the rain 4.7 billion miles from the sun,” the host said early in the clip. The bit was filmed in a cubicle made to look like a fake spacecraft, complete with Tang and printed images of ornate buttons and knobs.
Colbert went on to gush over the process of getting the photos from New Horizons and the heart-shaped mark on the planet before having the camera pan to Tyson. After joking about Pluto’s “girlfriend” (and moon) Charon, Tyson went on to explain that he wishes Pluto were a bit bigger before confidently stating that Pluto has gotten smaller every decade since its discovery in 1930. Dramatically, Colbert pulled out his phone to show Tyson that the spacecraft pictures actually show that the planet is “20 to 30 kilometers” bigger than previously expected. “Did I just fact check Neil ‘I’ll just free ball this one’ Tyson?” he adds as the astrophysicist laughs his mistake off.
The pair continued to playfully debate Pluto’s merit, with Tyson staunchly refusing to consider it anything more than a dwarf planet. Colbert also used the conversation as a way of parsing more facts about what the latest planetary discoveries mean, even quoting “noted astrophysicist” Elton John’s “Rocket Man” before an inquiry about the possibility of life existing on Pluto. Still, even a Klondike Bar couldn’t get Tyson to switch sides, though he did slightly concede in noting that Earth would be considered a dwarf planet if we lived on Jupiter.
Stephen Colbert’s takeover of The Late Show will premiere on September 8th.