Whenever NASA officials discover new planets, galaxies, or nebulae’s they receive an official name that relates to the star they orbit or the telescope that discovered them, followed by numbers and letters. More often than not they also receive a nickname which is much easier to remember, like the “Eskimo Nebula” for example, which is actually named NGC 2392.
Now, its seems as though the space agency is reevaluating the nicknames given to these newly found planets, galaxies nebulae’s because many view them to be derogatory and sometimes even racist.
The decision to reevaluate the nicknames is tied back to the fallout from protests against police officers who have unjustly or horrifically killed black people such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
According to a statement by NASA, “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 will implement these changes starting with the aforementioned Eskimo Nebula, and will now refer to it as just NGC 2392. “‘Eskimo’ is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions,” explains NASA.
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
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. According to Mashable, “Chang and Eng Bunker were Siamese-American conjoined twins who were publicly exhibited in the 1800s. The term was later used in a racist fashion in the Disney film Lady and the Tramp.”
In terms of celestial objects with derogatory or racist nicknames, NASA says it will now “use only the official, 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 T. Shih, Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity at NASA Headquarters. “Science depends on diverse contributions, and benefits everyone, so this means we must make it inclusive.”