Stuart Blasts Star Naming Companies

When I pitched a story idea to Tammy Plotner about how a president of a public observatory deals with those companies that offer to name stars, I was expecting (hoping) for something pretty negative. I think my request was something like, “could you debunk this please”? The article she actually wrote, Name a Star – Real or Ripoff, was much more nuanced, honest and forthright than I was expecting – I’m really glad she took the direction she did, and reminds me why I’m glad Tammy’s writing for Universe Today.

It’s an interesting dilemma. These people are selling something they have no right to sell and have to be dishonest about it. The best companies provide the coordinates to a real star, and the worst…

Anyway, Stuart over at Cumbrian Sky wrote the opinion I was expecting from Tammy. Completely hard line, but a very well defended position. It’s a great read – Star Naming, Fun or Foul.

If any other blogs out there want to chime in on this topic, I’ll be happy to update this page and link to your opinions as well.

14 Replies to “Stuart Blasts Star Naming Companies”

  1. I think that the real challenge would be when we actually travel to the star and meet the people who live there. Who would handle the litigation from the aliens and us about what the star was really named? Would to star naming company refund the money, with interest, to the descendants of the person that paid to name the star?

  2. That doesn’t make any sense with companies going into debt. The equivalent is like Europe going into debt for calling Nippon Japan. Everyone over there calls it Nippon, not Japan. That and Germany is called Deutschland by the people living there.

    The other post doesn’t make sense either since these stars being named have already been discovered. It’d be like a company here renaming islands in your name like Hawaii named “Burt” or something.

    There are more galaxies than that; there are billions if not more.

  3. You know, people who discover asteroids can name them anyway they want (subject to IAU guidelines of course). What if an individual who has discovered a bunch of asteroids decided to auction off the naming rights to those? In this case, the name really would be recognized by the IAU.

  4. Why stop with just stars. there are like a few million galaxies over at the Galaxy zoo. you could probably charge like 5 times for those naming rights.

  5. The thing is, there’s not much point for paying to name a star in someone’s unrecognized catalog. I could just as easily start a planet naming service to name all the extra solar planets. While I’m at it, I’ll charge a huge premium to name the planets, moons, rings, comets, asteroids and other bodies in our very own solar system. Those names would have exactly the same official status as the stars whose names were sold by the naming companies.

    How do you determine a legitimate naming company anyway? Seeing as the names are not officially recognized by any authority (IAU), who audits the company to ensure they don’t sell the naming rights to the same star twice?

    Companies that sell names to stars belong in the same catagory as the Lunar Embassy

    It would be funny if there was a Sci-Fi movie set in the future where all the stars had goofy names because it ended up that those names all were official: “Sir, we’re being invaded by the forces of the Great Aunt Mille system aided by the armies from the Bob’s Fartastic Bachelor Party 2008 system.

  6. I’m reminded of the movie Crocodile Dundee, when Dundee wonders why people bother going to war over a tiny piece of the Earth. He says it’s like two fleas arguing about who owns the dog they’re standing on. True enough.

    Think of it that way… the folks who are selling star names aren’t selling the star names or the stars. They are selling a little fun. Couldn’t we all use that?


  7. The right or wrong of it revolves around honesty. If the company claims that you own the star, or that the name is official, then you have been defrauded. Whether they should or not, some people will believe that and spend their money based on that claim.

    If however the company only says that it is a cool idea and just looks official, then there is no foul. I personally have bought several of these certificates, knowing they had no official standing. They looked good hanging on my wall, and the one for my girlfriend impressed her even though she knew it was not official. It was good enough for me.

  8. “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment or naming stars as a way to explain their frustrations.”

  9. Not only is it harmless, it’s a way to interest more people in looking beyond this blue marble. It is as a widow visiting an old creek bend and saying ‘this was our spot”, or me saying “this was your mother’s star.”

    After all, the right to share in the discoveries of our Universe is a basic human right. Keeping intuitive order is the duty of Science.

  10. Of course you know I read Stu’s blog! (and check you mail, stu… i try to be personal whenever possible. ;))

    I can also appreciate Stu’s candor and viewpoint…. and I thank Fraser for understanding that I have my own viewpoints and it might not always be what you’re expecting.

    Again, look carefully at what you’re getting. If it’s giving you geniune coordinates and not claiming that you “own” the star, then there’s no harm. If it’s taking your money and giving you useless numbers and saying “this is yours” then you’re only fooling yourself.

  11. People like to get fooled, it seems.

    There are so many more ways:
    – religious institutions that promise life after death
    – lotteries that you cannot ever win
    – paranormal claims of any kind
    – quackeries

    Maybe reality is too boring?

    I would avoid encouraging the star-naming practice.

  12. Back in the day my girlfriend gave me lots of kisses when I showed her the certificate, well worth the money. 😉

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