NASA is dropping callous nicknames for cosmic objects

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NASA will no longer use the old nickname given to the nebula NGC 2392. NASA / Andrew Fruchter (STScI)

The terms we use to describe the cosmos are not immune to scrutiny at a time when many people are struggling to identify and eliminate racist language. Just as technical terms are re-evaluatedNASA is also reconsidering the way we talk about space.

“As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequalities in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that some cosmic nicknames are not only callous, but can be actively harmful,” the agency said. spatial in a press release Wednesday. “NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. “

Nicknames are especially popular when it comes to galaxies and nebulae. Check-out Arp 142, which consists of NGC 2336 and NGC 2937. These designations might not ring a bell to most people, but you will certainly remember the “the penguin and the egg” galaxies because they look like an adorable penguin guarding an egg.

NASA gave two examples of cosmic objects for which it will no longer use nicknames. The planetary nebula NGC 2392 has been called the “Eskimo Nebula”. “‘Eskimo’ is widely regarded as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions,” NASA explained.

NASA has already added a note to a 2008 image showing NGC 2392 that explains the decision to withdraw the nickname.

The agency will also only use the official designations of NGC 4567 and NGC 4568 to refer to a pair of spiral galaxies known as the “Siamese Twin Galaxy”.

This re-examination of cosmic names is ongoing.

“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 help ensure that. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work must reflect this value ”. said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Missions Directorate.

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