Astronomers Urge Renaming of Magellanic Clouds Due to Explorer’s ‘Colonialist Legacy’
In a move stirring controversy within the scientific community, astronomers are advocating for a change in the names of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.
The dwarf galaxies, visible from the Southern Hemisphere, have long been known by indigenous peoples. However, their current names, derived from the 16th-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, are now under scrutiny.
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Mia de los Reyes, an astronomy professor at Amherst College, Massachusetts, criticizes Magellan’s ‘violent colonialist legacy.’ She emphasizes that Magellan was not an astronomer and was not the first to discover the galaxies, challenging the historical narrative.
Reyes and a coalition of astronomers are urging the scientific community to consider renaming not only the Magellanic Clouds but also other astronomical objects linked to Magellan.
Magellanic Clouds Under Scrutiny: Astronomers Seek New Names in Response to Historical Criticism
Reyes suggests alternatives, proposing a change from ‘Magellan’ to ‘meridional,’ signifying the Southern Hemisphere.
Another option is using ‘Milky’ to align with the galaxies’ association with the Milky Way. The plea, however, has faced criticism on social media, with some dismissing it as ‘#woke astronomy.’
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Despite the push for a name change, not everyone supports the idea. Critics argue against altering historical names, with some deeming it unnecessary.
Bob Blackman, a Conservative MP, dismisses the call for renaming, stating that delving into historical associations with the slave trade could lead to endless renaming.
Navigating the Stars: Debate Emerges on Renaming Magellanic Clouds in Astronomy
The Large Magellanic Cloud, located 160,000 light-years away, and the Small Magellanic Cloud, situated around 200,000 light-years away, have been celestial fixtures observed for centuries.
The controversy prompts a broader discussion about the intersection of historical legacies and modern scientific nomenclature.