In a statement on Wednesday, August 5, NASA said it had become clear that some cosmic nicknames were not only callous but actively harmful and that they were taking these first steps to address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the domain.
“At first, NASA will no longer refer to the planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remnants of a Sun-like star that blows on its outer layers at the end of its life, such as the“ Eskimo nebula ”, NASA said in the statement. “Eskimo” is widely regarded as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions. Most official documents have abandoned their use. ”
NASA has also said it will stop referring to a distant galaxy as the “Siamese Twin Galaxy”.
“NASA will no longer use the term ‘Siamese Twins Galaxy’ to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo galaxy cluster,” said the NASA statement. “In the future, NASA will only use official designations from the International Astronomical Union in cases where the nicknames are inappropriate.”
“Siamese twins” is an outdated term that refers to a pair of Siamese-American Siamese twins in the 1800s who regularly appeared in what were called “freak shows” at the time.
Nicknames are often given to celestial bodies and are often referred to by them rather than their official names, such as Barnard 33, also known as the “Horse Head Nebula” because of its appearance.
But NASA has said these “seemingly harmless” nicknames can be harmful and ultimately distract from science.
“I support our ongoing reassessment of the names by which we refer to astronomical objects,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Missions Directorate at headquarters in Washington. “Our goal is for all names to be aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and we will be working proactively with the scientific community to contribute to this. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work must reflect this value. ”
Going forward, NASA said it will work with experts in diversity, inclusion and equity to provide advice and guidance on designated nicknames.
“These nicknames and terms may have historical or cultural connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming, and NASA is strongly committed to responding to them,” said Stephen T. Shih, Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity at Headquarters. from NASA. “Science depends on diverse contributions and benefits everyone, so we need to make it inclusive.”
There has been a cultural toll in the months following George Floyd’s death at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis, and NASA is the latest organization to join an ever-growing list – alongside the Washington football team. , musical groups “The Chicks” and “Lady A”, and food products such as Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream who announced the abandonment of the “Eskimo Pie” brand after a century – examining the power of names.