This holiday season was the first in some time that I have not heard radio ads for the ‘gift’ of ‘naming a start after them’. Well, maybe I just wasn’t listening to the radio enough because I did hear one, and its just as bad as it ever was.
OK, let’s just go over the facts right now: Stars are not named after people, stars are ‘named’ by all sorts of designations. The brightest have kept their arabic names., but the fainter ones are named via designation, which usually means they are numbered. You can’t just walk into the International Astronomy Union and throw down a few bucks and get a start named after you! They don’t do that, and consider it crass enough to put up a page over the matter.
So what do these Star Naming groups do? Well they actually proudly tell you how little they do: They put the name in a book. That’s it. That’s all. Give us $20 and we’d happily put your name in a book as well. But what is their cincher? Well in the ad I heard they register the book with the US copyright office. Wow. The way the guys says it implies that means something to him, but as for astronomy it means nothing. I can produce a Star Atlas with every star name changed, and I can even register it with the US copyright office – but all that means is that no one can copy my book and make money off my new name Star Atlas. It doesn’t mean anyone with a telescope is going to start calling Rigel ‘Fred’. Even if it meant anything in the US, the rest of the world would hardly care a bit.
For the record, in older radio ads, the book was said to be registered with the US Patent office, I suspect the patent office took offense to being referred to in this manner.
The rest of these star naming nonsense adds on a few extras to make it seem like a bargain. In reality you are just getting a cheap astronomy kit at very inflated prices. The typical items are: a Certification Sheet (easy to print), an astronomy program (there are many freeware programs that are probably superior) and sometimes a book. The quality of the book is unknown, but I cannot imagine it is one of the better books on the market.
So if you really want to do something like this, consider ‘adopting’ a star. Many non-profit groups have star adoption programs to raise funds. You don’t get the cheap software, but you do get a more accurate Certificate (although you have to print it). Our personal favorite is the Pale Blue Dot which helps the Kepler planet spotting project continue. Here you are looking at candidates for adoption that are not only stars, but that might have planets orbiting them!
Don’t fall for the ‘naming’ scams. Let this nonsense end.