Friday, December 12, 2008

‘Name a star after someone’ for $54, or just flush the money down the toilet

Attention all you grandparents out there who think it might be cute to pay $54 to International Star Registry to get a star named after your grandchild. Why not put that money in a U.S. Savings Bond as a gift instead? Or get them a $50 iTunes gift card? Or buy a couple of nice books or a cool new video game?
Because naming a star after someone, as International Star Registry promises, is a lousy gift. It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.
The Ingleside, Ill., company says it will record your star name and coordinates in book form with the U.S. Copyright Office. So, basically it’s treated like other fiction that the copyright office protects. Your star name isn’t recognized by any astronomical group or space agency.
International Star Registry is open about this in the Frequently Asked Questions section of its Web site:

Q: Will the scientific community recognize my star name?
A: No. We are a private company that provides Gift Packages. Astronomers will not recognize your name because your name is published only in our Star catalog. We periodically print a book called Your Place in the Cosmos, which lists the stars that we have named.

So NASA will never say that star Cindy Johnson has gone supernova or that it’s sending a probe to the Timmy Nelson solar system.
The only accepted authority on star naming is the International Astronomical Union, which has no connection to International Star Registry. The IAU has called attempts to exploit ignorance on star naming a “deplorable commercial trick,” according to The Straight Dope. The Wikipedia entry on International Star Registry has links to other articles about the company.
International Star Registry says it has named “hundreds of thousands of stars” since 1979. Its star-naming packages start at $54 plus shipping and handling. Customers get a 12-inch by 16-inch parchment certificate with their star name, dedication date and telescopic coordinates.
Hey, granddad, how about buying your grandson a telescope instead?

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