What’s that up in the sky, you ask?
Well, it could be called something different soon.
The word is that NASA is apparently taking a hint from grocery store items, football teams, and country music groups which have all removed racially insensitive names in recent weeks and months.
For starters, the agency says that names such as “Eskimo Nebula” and “Siamese Twins Galaxy” will no longer be used.
“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,” NASA said in a release last week. “But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science.”
Additionally, NASA is examining its use of phrases for planets, galaxies and other cosmic objects “as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
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
The space agency goes on to say that it “will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate.”
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC, explains, “Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.”
Last June, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream said it was dropping the brand “Eskimo Pie” after a century. The word is commonly used in Alaska to refer to Inuit and Yupik people, according to the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska.
“This name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean ‘eater of raw meat,’” the company stated at the time.
“Siamese twins” is considered to be an antiquated expression for conjoined twins, based on brothers from Siam (now Thailand) who were used as sideshow freaks in the 19th century.