NASA has announced it is revising some unofficial nicknames used to refer to cosmic objects as it joins efforts by some within the scientific community to promote values of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The U.S. space agency said in a statement on Aug. 5 that certain nicknames historically used to refer to distant planets, galaxies, or nebulae that it considers “inappropriate” will no longer be used. Instead, the agency will adopt the official International Astronomical Union designations for the cosmic objects.
“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,” the agency said.
For example, what has been known as the “Eskimo Nebula” will now be referred to as NGC 2392.
According to NASA’s statement, the world “Eskimo” is “widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions.”
The agency also said it would no longer use the name “Siamese Twins Galaxy,” which it deems inappropriate for referring to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568—a pair of spiral galaxies in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster.
“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,” it said about its ongoing review.
Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, explained in the statement: “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.
“Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value,” he said.
As we work to identify & address systemic discrimination & inequality in all aspects of the scientific community, we are reexamining the use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects which can be not only insensitive, but actively harmful. Read more: https://t.co/ZNicp5g0Wh pic.twitter.com/jDup6JOGBd
— NASA (@NASA) August 5, 2020
Stephen Shih, NASA’s Diversity and Equal Opportunity associate administrator, said that the nicknames in question “may have historical or culture connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming” and that “NASA is strongly committed to addressing them.”
“Science depends on diverse contributions, and benefits everyone, so this means we must make it inclusive,” he added.
Finally, we note that the hilarious people over at The Babylon Bee had some ideas for new names…