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Have you ever heard about those services that let you adopt a star and name it after a loved one, or even yourself? Have you wondered if those services are legitimate; are you really naming a star after your friend? And will this name be recognized in the astronomical community?
The short answer is no.
The name of astronomical objects is managed by the International Astronomical Union. Names for moons, asteroids and other deep space objects are proposed at the IAU meetings and voted on. Even an astronomer who discovers a new object can only propose a name to the IAU; there’s no guarantee they’ll select it.
These companies that offer to sell stars are not actually allowed to name stars by the scientific community. Instead, what they’re doing is accessing star catalogs created by astronomers, and then putting all of these stars into a database. If you “adopt a star” from one of these companies, all they’re doing is updating their database with the name you’ve selected, and printing off a nice certificate. The name isn’t given that official name.
Some of the more honorable companies will classify a real object, so you can take your coordinates and try to find the star for yourself, but others aren’t so good. It’s buyer beware.
Imagine there was a service that allowed you to “adopt a country”. If you want, you can rename a country after yourself. You might start calling it by its new name, but the residents of that country aren’t going to be changing their name.
The only benefit adopt a star services give is they help increase interest in space and astronomy. It helps people stop for a moment and consider the Universe around them, and maybe even seek out a telescope or observatory to learn more about astronomy. That’s a good thing.
One service that we do endorse is the Adopt a Star service from Pale Blue Dot. They donate all of the money to support scientific research.