NASA is taking steps to remove offensive, inappropriate or questionable nicknames for the use of various space regions and celestial bodies. The decision comes amid growing calls for greater diversity and inclusion. NASA revealed its plans Wednesday, saying it will begin the process with the planetary nebula NGC 2392, informally known as the Eskimo Nebula. According to the space agency, most of NASA’s official documents no longer use the term, and the agency decided to remove the nickname “conjoined binary galaxy.”
What will replace these nicknames? NASA says it will instead use the official title of the International Astronomical Union for the object or region if it is given a nickname that is considered inappropriate. However, the nickname has not completely disappeared.
Nicknames are used to refer to objects and regions that may be difficult to remember. A simple nickname is easy to remember, but a name like “NGC 4567” is hard to remember. NASA continues to use these casual nicknames when the nicknames are harmless.
Stephen T. Shih, NASA’s deputy director for diversity and equal opportunities, said:
These nicknames and terms may have historical or cultural connotations that are repugnant or unwelcome, and NASA is strongly committed to addressing these issues. Science depends on different contributions and benefits everyone, so that means we have to make it inclusive.