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NASA drops insensitive nicknames for cosmic objects


NASA will no longer use the old nickname for 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 working to remove racist language. Just like technical terms are reevaluatedNASA is also considering how we talk about space.

“As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all areas of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive but can also be actively harmful,” the space agency said in a statement on Wednesday. “NASA is studying the use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, justice and inclusion.”

Nicknames are especially popular when it comes to galaxies and nebulae. Check out Arp 142, consisting of NGC 2336 and NGC 2937. These labels might not ring the bell for most people, but you would definitely remember The Penguin and the Egg galaxies because they look like an adorable penguin guarding an egg.

NASA gave two examples of cosmic objects that no longer have nicknames used. The planetary nebula NGC 2392 was known as the “Eskimo Nebula”. “‘Eskimo’ is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history imposed on the indigenous people of the Arctic regions,” NASA stated.

NASA has already added a 2008 image release showing NGC 2392 and explaining the decision to withdraw the nickname.

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

This review of the cosmic names is ongoing.

“Our goal is that all names are aligned with our values ​​of diversity and inclusion, and we will proactively work with the scientific community to ensure this. Science is for everyone and every facet of our work must reflect that value. ” said Thomas Zurbuchen, assistant administrator of NASA’s Directorate of Science Missions.

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