Home Science NASA will examine celestial body nicknames that may be offensive

NASA will examine celestial body nicknames that may be offensive


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (POT) has added among his occupations the elimination of unofficial nicknames with which they previously referred to nebulae, galaxies and other cosmic bodies, since many of them incite discrimination and inequality.

“These nicknames and terms may have historical or cultural connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming, and NASA is strongly committed to addressing them,” said Stephen T. Shih, NASA Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity.

The analysis of the terminology of some of the cosmic nicknames, used throughout history, is one of the most recent objectives of the US agency, as its spokespersons explained that they are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful.

Eskimo nebula”, Nickname with which the scientific community referred to the planetary nebula NGC 2392, will be one of the first to be suppressed, as this term is considered a colonial concept that was part of racist historical events, taxed on Indigenous villages from the regions surrounding the North Pole.

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Through a statement, NASA explained that most of the official documents have dispensed with their use as part of a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, so in the case of nicknames that are offensive or inappropriate, they will be chosen by the exclusive use of the official designations of the International Astronomical Union.

In the image, the galaxies NGC 4567 and NGC 4568. Photo: NASA, CHART32 Team, Processing – Johannes Schedler

Other excluded nicknames will be “Siamese twins galaxy“, with which they usually referred to two spiral galaxies, known under the names of NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, located in the Cluster of Virgo galaxies.

These nicknames emerged as an accessible and friendly way for society that is not familiar with astronomical terminology to more easily identify cosmic objects, as is the case with Barnard 33, a gas cloud nicknamed “the Horsehead Nebula”, Since its appearance resembles that of this animal species, however, nicknames that are apparently harmless can damage and undermine the seriousness of scientific findings.

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Thomas Zurbuchen, from the Scientific Mission Directorate of this organization, said that he supports the reevaluation of names, since the “objective is that all names are aligned with our values ​​of diversity and inclusion, and we will work proactively with the scientific community to help to guarantee that. Science is for everyone and every facet of our work must reflect that value. “

T. Shih concluded that “science depends on diverse contributions and benefits everyone, so this means that we must make it inclusive.”

To make the modifications, the Agency will work with specialists in diversity, inclusion and equity in the astronomical and physical sciences to provide guidance and recommendations for other nicknames and terms for review.

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