Home » Blog » A New Film Challenges the James Webb Telescope’s Controversial Name

A New Film Challenges the James Webb Telescope’s Controversial Name

The documentary options no less than 10 house consultants who endorse a reputation change. Updating the telescope’s title “would assist ship the message that NASA in its present period doesn’t tolerate the identical type of intolerance that was current within the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” Tessa Fisher, an astronomer at Arizona State College, tells the documentarians. “I believe we will do higher than naming a scientific instrument that has the chance to reply questions that the whole world is concerned about after a Chilly Warrior,” says author and house historian Audra Wolfe, creator of the ebook, Freedom’s Laboratory: The Chilly Struggle Wrestle for the Soul of Science.

Over the previous 20 years—apart from this mission—NASA has had open requires advised names for spacecraft and rovers, Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer Rolf Danner factors out within the movie, saying it has “picked figures which are vital and may present us the place we need to go sooner or later.” Whereas he praises NASA’s title for its first Mars rover—after abolitionist Sojourner Fact—and its upcoming infrared telescope named for astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, he calls the JWST a deviation from that historical past.

Even earlier than it turned controversial, the naming of the telescope—provisionally known as the Subsequent Technology Area Telescope when work started—was no less than unconventional. NASA officers usually title house telescopes close to their launch and normally after distinguished astronomers, like they did with the Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, and Compton telescopes. In distinction, former NASA chief Sean O’Keefe introduced that the brand new instrument can be named after Webb, a bureaucrat who led the company in the course of the Apollo program—and he did it 20 years earlier than the telescope launched, with out consulting the astronomical neighborhood.

Now the dispute over Webb’s legacy has solid a shadow over his $10 billion namesake, particularly amongst LGBTQ astronomers and house followers. “If you’re an individual who’s cis and straight in astronomy, then perhaps this doesn’t appear all that private to you,” Walkowicz says. “For me, this has basically ruined the supply of those first photos, which I want to be enthusiastic about.”

Walkowicz and three of their colleagues known as for NASA to vary the title in a 2021 petition signed by greater than 1,800 astronomers, lots of whom hoped to make use of the telescope’s devices for analysis. The quartet additionally made their case in a Scientific American opinion piece final 12 months. The lead creator of that piece, College of New Hampshire astronomer Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, had for years raised considerations on social media about homophobic insurance policies throughout Webb’s tenure at NASA. She and others additionally identified that Ultima Thule, NASA’s preliminary title chosen in 2018 for a Kuiper Belt object, had Nazi connotations. The company renamed it Arrokoth the next 12 months.

However regardless of the outcry, NASA officers selected to not rename the telescope. In July 2021, the company initiated an inner investigation, which included the paperwork later acquired by Nature through a FOIA request. That September, present NASA administrator Invoice Nelson handed out a one-sentence assertion to 6 reporters: “We’ve discovered no proof presently that warrants altering the title of the James Webb Area Telescope.” (In response, Walkowicz resigned from the NASA astrophysics advisory committee.) On the time, the company granted no interviews and launched no further info.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *