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Naming Stars

October 16, 2006

Can you really name a star after yourself or a loved one?


Want your very own star? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Perhaps you’ve gotten an offer in the mail to name a star. In return, the company will send you a certificate and often a star chart with your star circled. Well, in this month’s Skeptical Inquirer magazine, astronomer Phil Plait of Sonoma State University explains that astronomers don’t know or use the names given by these companies. When astronomers want to know the names of stars, they look at catalogs published in scientific journals.

PHIL PLAIT (Sonoma State University):
By the company saying that this is the official name, that makes it seem like the astronomers are going to know what it is, and so that’s sort of dishonest. And it also fools people into believing that if they go to an observatory and ask to see their star, they’ll be able to.

He says if people want to pay these companies, that’s up to them, but they’d do just as well printing up a certificate themselves. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.