On August 8th, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it would reexamine the nicknames that people give to 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. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
For example, NASA would stop calling planetary nebula NGC 2392 the “Eskimo Nebula”, because “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions.
NASA will also 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.
In the future, NASA would only use the International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate.
“These nicknames and terms may have historical or culture connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming, and Nasa is strongly committed to addressing them,” said Stephen Shih, associate administrator for diversity and equal opportunity at NASA. “Science depends on diverse contributions, and benefits everyone, so this means we must make it inclusive.”
Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen said that NASA’s aim was that all names are aligned with the values of diversity and inclusion.
“I support our ongoing reevaluation of the names by which we 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. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value,” he said.
NASA 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.
This is because, allegedly, nicknames are often more approachable and public-friendly than official names for cosmic objects, such as Barnard 33, whose nickname “the Horsehead Nebula” invokes its appearance.
“But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science.”
Of course, the internet immediately jumped on the band wagon, and as such “The Official NASA Guide to more inclusive space terms” was born.
It should be noted that this is not an official piece of documentation, obviously, but it does provide some good ideas, one could argue.
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