NASA Is Removing Its Offensive Names From Planets And Heavenly Bodies
NASA has announced it is examining its use of ‘unofficial terminology’ while naming planets and heavenly bodies, saying it will start by removing any offensive names.
In addition to giving celestial objects official names, the space agency usually attributes nicknames to each one, nicknames NASA this week acknowledged could cause harm to some communities.
Under the new rules, the ‘Eskimo Nebula’ and the ‘Siamese Twins Galaxy’ will no longer be referred to as such, and NASA has said it will only use their official designations moving forward.
Previously nicknamed the ‘Eskimo Nebula’, planetary nebula NGC 2392 is the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life. It was discovered in 1787 by William Hershel.
Its nickname will no longer be used by the space agency. As NASA noted in a statement, most official documents have moved away from the use of the term ‘Eskimo’, stating: ‘Eskimo is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions.’
The so-called ‘Siamese Twins Galaxy’, which is a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, will likewise only be known as their official names – NGC 4567 and NGC 4568 – going forward.
As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful.
NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion… Often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science.
The Agency will be working with diversity, inclusion, and equity experts in the astronomical and physical sciences to provide guidance and recommendations for other nicknames and terms for review.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters, Washington, said he supports his team’s ‘ongoing reevaluation’ of the names by which they refer to astronomical objects.
‘Our goal is that all names are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and we’ll proactively work with the scientific community to help ensure that,’ he continued. ‘Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.’
NASA’s Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Stephen T. Shih agreed, saying they are ‘strongly committed’ to addressing any ‘objectionable or unwelcoming’ nicknames.
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