Group of scientists calls to rename the Magellanic Clouds

According to astronomer Mia de los Reyes, "Magellan continues to be a symbol of imperialist violence," which she claims is why the two nearby galaxies should not be named in his honor.

A group of scientists recently called to rename the Magellanic Clouds. The two satellite galaxies, known as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, were named in honor of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. However, both may soon have new names.

The reason? Astronomers do not consider the explorer's name to be appropriate for these two space formations. This was stated by astronomer Mia de los Reyes, one of the supporters of renaming the Magellanic Clouds. As she explained to Physics magazine, its names "honor a man who was a colonizer, a slaver, and a murderer" and, therefore, they should change its name:

The Milky Way is surrounded by a host of smaller satellite galaxies, the two brightest of which are known as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Both galaxies are visible to the naked eye, and both have been known for centuries by viewers of the Southern Sky. But the beauty of these starry objects is clouded by their names, which honor a man who was a colonizer, a slaver, and a murderer. Now I and a coalition of astronomers are calling for the scientific community to rename these galaxies, as well as other astronomical objects, institutions, and facilities that bear his name.

Magellan's 'violent colonialist legacy'

The astronomer, of Filipino descent, assured in her article that "names reflect community values." For that reason, she argued, the Magellanic Clouds should not honor a man who many still consider to have "violent colonialist legacy":

Names reflect community values. Naming objects, buildings, and places after people has long been a way for society to honor individuals for their discoveries, their accomplishments, or the values they symbolize. Magellan made no astronomical discoveries, and for many, he continues to be a symbol of imperialist and anti-Indigenous violence.

It remains to be known if the International Astronomical Union will approve a name change for the Magellanic Clouds. This is a decision that Mia de los Reyes hopes will also be taken by "other astronomical institutions, particularly the consortia that manage the 6.5-m Magellan telescopes and the upcoming Giant Magellan Telescope."