In a recent planetarium show I watched, the narrator said, “We recently discovered that Saturn also has similar Northern Lights to ours. The aurora is only visible on the ultra-violet spectrum.”(1)
Who is the “we” in this narration? The filmmakers and the staff of the planetarium? It’s not likely they launched their own space craft and made this discovery.
So who made the discovery? I stayed through the credits and no mention was given of the astronomers, government agencies or scientific institutions who made this discovery about Saturn. The audience is left with the impression the filmmakers are speaking on behalf of some vague group of scientists.
Who collected the data on Saturn needs to credited. The humans who designed, built, and launched a space craft to travel the solar system shouldn’t be the royal “we.” If the filmmakers thought it was too much for the narration, it could have went in the film credits.
Why Cite Sources
We cite sources to give credit to the creator of the information we are using. To not give credit has other’s assume the work is ours. Plus there’s the possibility of degrading the contributions of individuals and groups who deserve the recognition. Leaving out the source also simplifies and cheapens the actual reality.
In the case of the discovery of Saturn’s atmosphere, history is more interesting than the simple planetarium narration. The ten year long project to study Saturn was a joint venture of the space agencies of the United States, Europe, and Italy.(2) You can read about it here on britannica.com
The contributions of hundreds of women and men is hidden with the use of “we.” It deserves citation and recognition.
(1) “Áróra – The Northern Lights Planetarium Show,” Perlan Center, Reykjavík, Iceland.
(2) William B. Hubbard, Mark Marley, and others, “Saturn,” Encyclopedia Britannica (https:// britannica.com/place/saturn/spacecraft ; accessed: 8 January 2020), Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 18 October 2019.