Buying a star
Last week, I brought the portable planetarium that I run (the Fisk-Vanderbilt NASA Astronomy Roadshow) to a school north of Nashville. From both the parents and the students, I got questions about buying a star for someone. I get these questions a lot – from people when I do outreach, from friends for whom I’m “their” astrophysicist, from students… It is a really nice idea and very sweet, but IT IS NOT WORTH IT. Should you do buy a star for someone, you are giving your money away to some opportunists. The star name company will give you a nice certificate, put your name in a database, and take $50 (or more). However, there are several companies out there, each with their own databases, and they don’t talk to each other. “Your” star could also be several other people’s star. Also, the naming is in no way official – no astronomer will ever, EVER call your star by the name you “buy” – astronomers have our own, internationally agreed upon, usually boring numeric names/designations.
More importantly, the sky is free :) We should keep it that way.
If you would like more information
- International Astronomical Union (the official celestial namers) has an informative page about buying star names
- A couple of astronomers have a very nice website with good links: Information On Naming Stars
- The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry: Name Dropping: Want to Be a Star? (this one has a little more of a personal touch to it with stories about memorializing – a note, I’ve had an experience like the one described here – it sucked)