Naming Stars

I work for a company that sells a name-a-star product called "Name A Star Live".

In general, name a star products are not scientific. The worldwide scientific community recognizes only one organization that can 'officially' name stars: the International Astronomical Union (IAU). In fact, only a few stars have names (mostly given by Arabic astronomers centuries ago). Most stars are identified by widely used astronomical catalogs, such as the Hipparcos (HIP), Tycho (TYC), Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), and Henry Draper (HD) catalogs.

For example, the brightest star in the night sky is known by its Arabic name, "Sirius." Depending on their preference, astronomers also refer to this same star as HIP 32349, TYC 5949-2777-1, SAO 151881, or HD 48915.

Suppose you find a name-a-star company on the Web. Let's call it "Name-a-Star company A." You can fork over $60 to Name-a-Star company A and indicate that you want to call Sirius (a.k.a. HIP 32349, TYC 5949-2777-1, SAO 151881, or HD 48915) "Jack." After processing your credit card, Name-a-Star company A will then dutifully send you a certificate and maybe some other paper, all indicating that the star is now named "Jack."

But suppose your neighbor finds another company -- call it "Name-a-Star company B" -- on the Web, forks over $60, and decides to name that same star "Jill." Name-a-Star company B will then dutifully send your neighbor a certificate and maybe some other paper, all indicating that the same star is named "Jill."

So which is it: "Jack" or "Jill"?

The answer is, "neither." Astronomers the world over will continue to refer to the star as "Sirius," HIP 32349, TYC 5949-2777-1, SAO 151881, or HD 48915.

The same holds true for all stars.

As long as a name-a-tar company doesn't portray itself as offering you an opportunity to "offically" name a star, then, in my view, there's nothing wrong with it. Basically, you're buying something akin to a pet rock.

 

 

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