NASA Renames Cosmic Objects Whose Nicknames Are ‘Actively Harmful’

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NASA is renaming two cosmic objects, the “Eskimo Nebula” and the “Siamese Twins Galaxy,” after determining that the names are “insensitive” and “actively harmful,” NASA announced Wednesday.

“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 said in a news release. “NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” (RELATED: Virgin Galactic To Develop Private Astronaut Program And Space Station Transport Under NASA Deal)

“Eskimo Nebula,” the glowing remains of a star, will now be referred to by its official name, NGC 2392.

“‘Eskimo’ is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions,” NASA said. They are also renaming the “Siamese Twins Galaxy” and will refer to the pair of spiral galaxies by their scientific names, NGC 4567 and NGC 4568.

“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,” the agency added. “But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science. The Agency 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.”

Stephen T. Shih, Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity at NASA Headquarters, said that some nicknames “may have historical or culture connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming, and NASA is strongly committed to addressing them.” (RELATED: The Washington Redskins Will Officially Retire The Team Name Monday)

“Science depends on diverse contributions, and benefits everyone, so this means we must make it inclusive,” Shih added.