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Can You Really Name a Star After Someone?

No one owns the galaxy or the universe.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2014
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Thousands of years ago, our ancestors looked up into the stars and named some of them. Some of the names stuck, and are still used as official designations by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Of course, with the advanced ability to view the world, we would now almost run out of names for stars, and most stars are given a number designation.

However, some companies offer a name a star service. One sends in the name of one’s beloved and gets back very official looking documents saying the name of the star is now “George,” “Margie” or “Sweet’ums.” What you really get is a lovely, important looking paper at a relatively high price.

The IAU does not recognize these name a star services as official. So you are not really naming a star-you’re simply benefiting a company that came up with a great marketing concept. However, these companies assert that no one owns the galaxy or the universe, so their suggested names are just as valid.

Every now and again, some new scientific process might discover a new star. In that case, the IAU might name a star that is newly discovered after its discoverer. However, most astronomers simply agree to the number system for simplicity in classification.

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Of course if you want to name a star after someone and spend the money, you certainly can. You can also create quite official looking documents at home to give a star the name of anything you’d like. For that matter, you’re free to name anything you wish any name you choose, providing you’re not using a name for commercial purposes that violate someone else’s copyright or patent status.

It can be a fun activity to learn the names of the stars officially recognized by the IAU, and then perhaps take turns with one’s kids giving the stars new names. This costs a little time, but is generally free, monetarily speaking.

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Discuss this Article

Renegade
Post 4

If someone were to give a genuinely official name to a star, I would expect it to cost more than $50.

arod2b42
Post 3

It is a sentimental practice which can provide great entertainment to a gullible lover, if nothing else.

BostonIrish
Post 2

Star names change over time, the Babylonians probably named more of them than anyone, but most of the Babylonian names were translated to Persian, Greek, and Latin, over time. Today, we remember a lot of them by their Latin names, but that might also change. Different cultures also have different names for them, and constellations vary all over the world. Even if one were to name all the stars in the northern hemisphere, he would still need to travel to Australia and name all the southern stars.

hangugeo112
Post 1

Usually names of things only have significance if they are recognized by a large number of people. There are more stars in the sky than people on earth, so even one person who spends his whole life memorizing the names of every star will not get far by the time of his death. Therefore, star names are all but obsolete, and can change with time. We only remember significant stars which are prominent in the social conscious.

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