The Star-Naming Scam – Repost with added commentary
Once again whilst driving and listening to the impending doom the local weather had prepared for us (it didn’t happen) I heard the Star Naming ad on the radio, hoping to cash in on the Valentine’s Day gift giving.
I decided to repost an article I wrote about this scam several years ago. I will add a few notes to update things where needed.
Reposted article follows:
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. (Reposting Note: The ‘new’ ad was heard well out of the holiday season.)
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 stars have kept their arabic names, but the fainter ones are named via designation, which usually means they are numbered. (Edit to Add: The International Astronomy Union is the one that decides what a star is called, and guess what – they aren’t naming them after people!). You can’t just walk into the International Astronomy Union and throw down a few bucks and get a start named after you! (Edit to add – you can’t do it over the phone or web, either) They don’t do that, and consider it crass enough to put up a page over the matter.
(Edit to add: This line from the previous link says it all: “A: Sorry, we are a scientific organization, not a branch of the entertainment industry. We cannot distribute addresses of enterprises selling fictitious goods.”).
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. (Edit to add: Yes, they are still using the copyright office instead of the US patent office, in older ads they used to say the book was placed in a Swiss bank safe) Wow. The way the guy in the radio ad 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.
(Edit to add: Given that the radio ad had a price of somewhere around $65 and the stuff they include maybe costs $10 in materials, maybe, this is pretty much a profit factory).
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!
(Edit to add: Note that ‘adopting’ is not having a star named after you. Once this project winds up – which could be a couple of years or decades this information will probably be gone. But you will be one of the people who supported the crucial Kepler planet-finding project.
Don’t fall for the ‘naming’ scams. Let this nonsense end.