Nasa drops 'colonial' nicknames for cosmic objects like 'Eskimo Nebula' and 'Siamese Twins Galaxies'

Nick Allen
·1 min read
nebula - NASA
nebula - NASA

Nasa is to drop "colonial" and "insensitive" nicknames for cosmic objects, including the "Eskimo Nebula" and the "Siamese Twins Galaxies".

The space agency said it had taken the decision to address "systemic discrimination and inequality" in science.

From now on it will use the official International Astronomical Union designations for planets, stars, galaxies and other stellar bodies "in cases where nicknames are inappropriate."

The Eskimo Nebula will be known as NGC 2392. And the Siamese Twins Galaxies, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, will be called NGC 4567 and NGC 4568.

In a statement Nasa said: "It has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. "'Eskimo' is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Nasa will also no longer use the term 'Siamese Twins Galaxy'."

The term 'Siamese Twins' originated from a pair of conjoined twins who were born in Siam in the 19th Century.

Stephen Shih, associate administrator for diversity at Nasa, said: "These nicknames and terms may have historical or culture connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming, and Nasa is strongly committed to addressing them."

According to the Alaska Native Language Center the term "Eskimo" is considered derogatory in many places because it was bestowed by non-Inuit people.

Nasa's decision was criticised on social media by campaigners against political correctness.

Ann Coulter, the right wing author, wrote: "How many Nasa engineers did it take to determine that calling a star the 'Eskimo Nebula' is 'actively harmful'? The country is finished."