James Webb Space Telescope sparks LBGTQ+ feud over calls to SCRAP astronomer's name from mission | The Sun

ACADEMICS have called for the James Webb Space Telescope to be renamed over anti-LGBTQ+ connotations.

Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) recently just delivered its first-ever images of deep space.

Still, this huge achievement has prompted many researchers to ask Nasa to rename the instrument, The Guardian reports.

Why are academics calling for JWST to be renamed?

James Webb, an American official who died in 1992, was the second administrator of Nasa.

He led the space agency during many of Nasa's missions such as Apollo in the 1960s.

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However, Webb also allegedly had a hand in implementing anti-LGBTQ+ policies.

What type of policies?

Experts at Scientific American explained in 2021: "When [Webb] arrived at Nasa in 1961, his leadership role meant he was in part responsible for implementing what was by then federal policy: the purging of LGBT individuals from the workforce."

"When he was at State, this policy was enforced by those who worked under him. As early as 1950, he was aware of this policy, which was a forerunner to the antigay witch hunt known today as the lavender scare."

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The researchers point to one historian David K. Johnson's book on the subject called The Lavender Scare.

Johnson's work looked at evidence that showed Webb was involved in Senate discussions that set off a series of anti-LGBTQ+ federal policies.

What are astronomers saying now?

One astronomer Phil Plait tweeted on Tuesday: "I am understandably excited about the @NASAWebb images being released tonight and tomorrow! But that excitement is tinged with strong disappointment because @NASA very seriously needs to #RenameJWST."

'A lot of astronomers are very unhappy the observatory is named after him,” Plait added in his Bad Astronomy newsletter.

"It’s difficult to want to use an instrument when you know you’ll have to write about it using the name of someone who worked to negate your very existence."

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, an assistant professor of physics at the University of New Hampshire involved with the renaming petition, tweeted on Monday: "As one of the people who has been leading the push to change the name, today feels bittersweet, I’m so excited for the new images and so angry at Nasa HQ."

"Nasa leadership has stubbornly refused to acknowledge that what is now public info about JW’s legacy means he does not merit having a great observatory named after him," she added.

In September of last year, Nasa said that it would not change the telescope’s name, per The Guardian.

"We have found no evidence at this time that warrants changing the name of the James Webb space telescope," Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

The James Webb Space Telescope

Nasa launched the $10 billion space telescope last year on December 25.

Webb currently orbits Earth-sun Lagrange Point 2 (L2), which is about 930,000 miles from Earth in the direction of Mars.

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There, the telescope scours the night sky for faint infrared light, which could be visible from the first generation of stars and galaxies.

JWST, which has been dubbed the "next Hubble", will help researchers get a better understanding of the early days of our universe – much like the legendary Hubble Space Telescope has.

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