NASA will stop using racist nicknames for astronomical objects. The agency has removed terms that are offensive to people from indigenous and Asian communities.

For years, indigenous peoples have criticized the use of the word ‘Eskimo’ because of its racist roots: this term was a nickname NASA used for the planetary nebula NGC 2392.

Siamese twins

In addition to the term “Eskimo”, the agency has also removed other terms that may be offensive: it will no longer use the term ‘Galaxy of Siamese Twins’ to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo galaxy cluster.

Thus, in the future, NASA will only use International Astronomical Union Designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate.


The planetary nebula NGC 2392 (whose formerly racist nickname was dropped by NASA) is shown in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope, released on July 11, 2013.

As explained Thomas zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for Science Missions

I support our ongoing reassessment of the names by which we refer to astronomical objects. Our goal is for all names to be aligned with our diversity and inclusion values, and we will proactively work with the scientific community to help ensure this. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work must reflect that value.

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Although it is not yet clear what NASA’s next steps will be to manage and prevent the use of offensive language, the agency has announced in the statement that it is “examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to the diversity, equity and inclusion “. The agency added that work with experts on diversity, inclusion and equity within the astronomical and physical sciences as a guide.

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