Actually, don't. Turns out it's a scam.
International Astronomical Union Statement
This is right on par with that woman who tried, and to some fools successfully, to sell real estate on the moon.
Wow! I almost fell for that star name scam once. It seemed like such a cool idea at the time.
Reminds me a lot of this:
If you want to make a claim on something in space, this is the place to do it, but you'd better hurry, all of the good planets and stars are being taken.
The worst thing about this scam is that some of these fraudsters have lawyers in tow, willing to sue the pants off any university or observatory that stands up publicly to shine light on their scam. Apparently quite a few US institutions have been bullied into silence by such immoral lawyers ... the universities' own lawyers have advised that the cost of fighting such fraudulent law suits, together with the lowlikelihood of recovering costs should the win (by no means guarranteed), suggests not taking a stand.
I want to buy a galaxy. Much better return on investment.
I know someone who received a star name as a gift. She fully understood that the scientific community doesn't recognize the name. She's never seen her star. She tried once with the star chat provided, but she wasn't experienced enough with a telescope to figure out exactly which one it was. But she does know what constallation it is in, and can roughly point to it. And she talks with excitement about her star to this day.
These stars are usually very dim telescopic objects that would never stand a chance of being named anyway, so why not have some fun with it?
I'm not offended by this scam, if that's what you want to call it. They play their radio ads here, and they don't give any impression than there will be any official recognition by astronomers or the international community of the star's name. It's just a fun thing to know that there's a star named after you, even if you, the gift giver, and the company that sold it to you are the only ones who recognize the name.
Nor am I, and I wouldn't call it a scam. It may not be real, but it has whatever symbolism you want to attach to it. When one of my friends died young, his family named a star after him. Now that I have a decent telescope, I'm going to find it.
Let's see if I've got this right ... some posters (or folk some posters know) are quite happy to pay money to a commercial entity which gives them a little package saying that a star (arrowed, circled in a photo) is theirs (or their departed loved one's) - and the package also gives them the (1950? 2000?) RA and Dec of 'their' star? These same folk know that the 'giving' or 'naming' of the star is quite unofficial, not endorsed by the IAU, etc?
So, why don't we all, as a service to those who wish to 'have' such a star, tell them how to find a field in the sky, select a star, print out the chart? There are many tools to do this, available free on the internet (e.g. Aladin). If people have difficulty with the messy details of this, we PF members should be more than happy to help, right? Oh and BTW, there is more than one source of excellent, deeper-than-most-amateurs-can-go sky images (the cannonical one is the Palomar Schmidt plates, supplemented in the southern sky by the Sidings Springs Schmidt plates), e.g. 2MASS.
Now, back to the scam part ... if I were running this kind of scam, I'd choose a nice looking field, a star within it ... and give EVERYONE who asked exactly the same star! After all, the chances of my customers ever finding out that it's just the same star are pretty slim (if they knew anything about my service, they wouldn't have paid me $$ in the first place).
I was actually the grinch who told her that the name was not official, which people considered rude, since it was demeaning the gift in front of the giver and recipient. Her response, "I don't care, I love my star" or something like that. I doubt she knows what the IAU is. I used to think Scam everytime I heard the radio ad, but this incident changed my mind.
Because it would be fun the first 2 or 3 times, then you too would want 50 bucks for your time and effort of keeping a database of available stars, printing a unique gift quality star chart that didn't look like it came off your computer's printer, and mailing it to the recipient with an attached gift card.
That would be a scam. I only know one person who has a star named after them, so I can't compare and make sure they're not reusing the same star. But if they were then I'd jump back on the Scam bandwagon too. But as long as they're giving everybody a unique star, and there are pleanty, and not trying to convince people that the scientific community recognizes these names, I say let people have fun with it.
Umm, you guys do realize that if you want a star to be unofficially named by a body that it is not recognized by any Astronomer, you can simply do it yourself, right? You don't need to pay any money of anything. Just find a star that isn't named, and start calling it [insert name here]. If having a certificate makes you feel better, you can make one on your computer. In fact, if you send me half the money these companies are charging, I'll do it for you.
There's something on a slightly smaller scale you can do here; you can take out a lease on a square foot of land on a Scottish whisky producing island (you buy it from the whisky company). They do all the usual stuff like giving you a map of where it is, and sending you a certificate of ownership and stuff, but the difference is that if you want to visit it, they'll loan you wellies and a compass and point you in the right direction so you can go and find it. Nice touch I thought.
Can you put up a fence and keep a small sheep on it? I'd want to do that if I had a wee square of moorland.
I've not heard any of these ads, nor (AFAIK) seen any in print media ... do they make any claim about uniqueness, officialdom, a central registry of names, ...? Do they have any kind of disclaimer - to the effect that only the IAU can give 'official' names to stars?
I don't know what the laws in the US are, but in many countries - China (yes, China!) included - there are laws about 'truth in advertising', and omission of key info (such as the role of the IAU) is just as much grounds for fines as commismion. And here's where the scam comes in ... if an observatory - associated with a university say - tries to make public statements about one of these scamsters, their immoral lawyers threaten to sue them, big time.
Now, as to the fee etc (remember, these are commercial enterprises, they exist solely to make a profit for their owners). What would you say the marginal cost of production of a 'personal star package' was? My guess is around US$2 to $5 (think of a CD), with 'shipping and handling' around $1 (there are fulfilment firms which will do bulk orders for a very low per item cost). So suppose their volumes aren't that big (hard to see, if they have the $$ to pay for those radio ads), and the marginal cost totals, say $10. That gives a gross margin, per 'personal star' of approx 400% (assuming a cost to the consumer of $50). No wonder they can afford lawyers to sue universities.
In the US you can lease a square inch of the Jack Daniels distillery.
They claim that the star name will be recorded in book form in the U.S. Library of Congress. This of course means nothing. Millions of novels are in the Library of Congress.
No, no disclaimer that only the IAU can give 'official' names, but no claim that the name will become 'official' either.
I think this is where they get off the hook. They never claim that anyone other than them will recognize the star name. They sort of imply that Congress will with their Library of Congress line.
But there's no law, nor should there be, that prohibits me from saying to my next door neighbor that if he gives me $50, I'll forever refer to the Moon as "Ben". And I'll print him a picture of the Moon and label it "Ben" so he can show all his friends.
But if I told him the IAU and the scientific community would call the Moon "Ben" as well, then I'd be ripping him off.
Here's the website of the International Star Registry, who plays the radio ads here in the San Francisco area:
Just for fun, I called the 800 number on the website and asked if the scientific community recognized the name. She said "No". So, pretending I purchased a star name, I asked if I could have a refund because I thought scientists would be referring to the star by my name. She said "Mail back the package and we'll credit your credit card".
So it sounds like they're covering all their bases and carefully tiptoeing around a legitimate fradulant charge.
I've never heard of the lawsuits. I imagine if the Universities simply stated that the names are not officially recognized that these companies wouldn't have a complaint, but if the Universities said the buisness was fradulant then of course there'd be a problem, since it's no more fradulant than my "Ben" example unless they claim recognition that goes beyond their company. Most businesses would hire attorneys to respond to people who slander them and cause harm to their sales.
I've never heard a story of anyone whose purchased a star name, then found out the IAU doesn't recognize it and felt ripped-off.
Anyone want to start a business selling Extra-Solar planet names? :rofl:
I think the "scam" part of it is that they don't tell the buyer that the name is not official. Well, that and the over-charging for their services.
Otherwise, it's a nice gesture. But I wouldn't recommend it (on principle, as an amateur astronomer).
Maybe things have moved on ... I'll dig out the info I have on observatories (an observatory?) being threatened with law suits (a law suit?) if they persisted in providing public info re companies (a company?) which offered to name a star for you.
Mars Exploration Rover-2003 Mission...
I hope that one wasn't a scam. My Participation Certificate looked like the genuine article (actually, I couldn't really say that).
Separate names with a comma.