Do stars have any meaning?

Naming stars


(Translation of Buying Stars and Star Names [Sabine Moehler])


The IAU (International Astronomical Union) often receives inquiries from individuals who want to buy star names or name stars after other people. Some commercial companies claim to offer such services for a fee. However, such '' names '' have no formal or official validity: some bright stars have traditional Arabic names, but apart from that, stars only have catalog numbers and positions in the sky. Similar rules about `` buying '' names apply to star clusters and galaxies. Special conditions apply to objects in our own solar system regulate, but in no case are there any economic transactions involved.

As an international scientific organization, the IAU clearly distances itself from the commercial practice of selling fictional star names or properties on other planets or moons in our solar system. The IAU therefore does not maintain a list of companies in this area. Readers who, despite the explanations below, want to get in touch with such companies must refer to the appropriate directories in their home country.

In the past, individual companies pretended to customers that the IAU recognized, endorsed, or even actively supported their business practices in some way. The IAU would like to make it unmistakably clear that any such suggestion is completely wrong and unfounded. The IAU requests information (with appropriate documentation) on any such incidents in which your name has been used improperly and will pursue such abuse by all means.

Thus, the beauty of the night sky - like true love and many of the best things in life - is not for sale, but for the edification of all. A `` given '' star may open one's eyes to the beauty of the night sky. But while this is an honorable goal, it does not justify leading people to believe that real star names can be bought like any commodity. Contrary to misleading claims, several companies - nationally and internationally - compete with one another in this area. And in our Milky Way alone there may be millions of stars with planets whose inhabitants have at least the same right as we to name `` their '' star, as people do with the sun (which of course have different names in different languages Has).

Nevertheless, the IAU is still receiving inquiries regarding the naming of stars. We offer further (informal / humorous) explanations to some of the questions here in the form of the

Lay guide to naming stars

Below are some simple, frequently asked questions and corresponding informal answers about naming stars and other celestial objects (for more serious scientific explanations, see Naming Astronomical Objects)

Question: Why don't stars get real names instead of those boring numbers?

Answer: An object is given a name that enables it to be found again for further investigations. Names are good for small groups of well-known objects, such as planets or stars visible to the naked eye, but they are useless for huge numbers - remember that we know hundreds of millions of stars. Exact coordinates (positions in the sky), which can be found e.g. via a catalog number, allow an exact identification of the object. The same goes for people: finding Maria Gonzales in Argentina or John Smith in Great Britain just by name is pretty hopeless. But if you know their exact address, you can easily find them - even without knowing their name.

Question: But wouldn't it be funny after all?

Answer: Some people might find it funny as long as current fashions persist, but for no compelling reason it would add to confusion. And that would be the opposite of what scientists receive tax money for.

Question: Who is legally responsible for naming celestial bodies?

Answer: The IAU is the only internationally recognized authority for the naming of celestial bodies and their surface structures. And names are not sold, but given according to internationally recognized rules.

Question: What does that mean in practice?

Answer: Quite simply: Names given by the IAU are recognized and used worldwide by scientists, space agencies and other government agencies. When observing stars and planets, space missions there or even just reporting about it, it must be clear to everyone which place a name refers to. The names assigned by the IAU are used. These rules also apply where theoretically property claims could be made, i.e. above all within our own solar system (where e.g. UN conventions also apply). Earthly international lawmakers now have far more pressing problems to resolve than buying completely inaccessible regions of space so that there is no written text to rotate and interpret - just a simple practical fact.

Question: But if I want, can I still buy a star name?

Answer: Sure, many people will be happy to take your money away from you ...

Question: Can you give me addresses?

Answer: We are a scientific organization, not a branch of the entertainment industry. We cannot distribute addresses of companies that sell fictitious goods.

Question: I found a dealer myself - what will I get from them?

Answer: An expensive piece of paper and a temporary feeling of happiness - like preferring a cup of tea to a prescribed medication, except that you don't risk illness here - just a loss of money.

Question: But the name is unique, isn't it?

Answer: The name is probably on the list this Company unique. Otherwise, you can likely take legal action. But there are more than enough stars for anyone looking to buy a star name. However, no country, state authority or scientist will recognize `` your '' name for the star. Nothing prevents your or any other dealer from reselling `` your '' star to someone else. And just think of all the other stars in the universe that have planets with business-minded people ...

Question: Friends told me the name will last forever?

Answer: That's not true either: the name you paid for can be ignored, forgotten, or sold back by anyone to anyone else at any time.

Question: But the company says their list of names is registered with the National Library - isn't that a guarantee of authenticity?

Answer: A copy of each published book must be sent to the National Library. The inclusion of a book by the National Library does not mean that the library approves the content or verifies that another company is selling the same star to other people.

Question: But surely a court will recognize the name I paid for?

Answer: Ask your lawyer - she will probably either laugh herself to death or politely suggest that you use your fee more wisely.

Question: But what about companies that sell land on the moon and other planets? These are - as we know - reachable, so surely I own the piece of land that I bought?

Answer: Notice the answer to the previous question. At the very least, we would advise you to wait until you have taken possession of your property before paying ...

Question: The IAU is supposedly responsible for heaven - why Companies You nothing here ?? !!

Answer: As much as we would like to do that, we do not believe that the IAU could exterminate charlatanism: It has endured countless centuries in many disguises, with some manifestations being far more dangerous than this example. We can only warn the public and try to prevent our name and scientific reputation from being misused to mislead bona fide customers.

Question: All of this sounds so negative and grouchy. I love the stars and someone very special and I want to do something for them. What can I do?

Answer: A lot! Go to the nearest planetarium or the local public or `` professional '' observatory. There are people there who feel the same way you do and you can point out books and magazines with beautiful astronomical images (taken from the ground or from space) that make great gifts. They can also give you pointers to the local astronomy clubs, where enthusiasts will be happy to show you (and your boyfriend / girlfriend) the real stars with their own telescopes. Maybe you will even get it and buy a telescope yourself? But remember - these long nights outside can enrich a friendship, but also test how many partners of astronomers can testify. So take someone very special with you to enjoy the starry sky - this is how many astronomical marriages began ...

In addition, if you want a personal star but prefer to stay inside, you can explore the whole sky from the comfort of your own home: digitized sky surveys and display programs are generally available. You can use it to browse hundreds of millions of stars on your computer and print out a map of whoever you like. These publicly available digitized maps are the basic material for at least some of the commercial star naming companies anyway and cost about the same as a single star name. So why should you `` buy '' single stars for a high price? Have fun!