Wednesday, February 6, 2008

You want to get a star named after someone ...

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From time to time people ask me about getting a star named after someone.

The short answer is no. You also can't get asteroids or other astronomical objects named after you.

There are a number of companies that will sell you a fancy looking certificate with the name of your choice and a location in the sky. These are not official or recognized in any way and are little more than novelties or gag gifts. You should treat them as such. For more information, check out the International Astronomical Union's explanation, here.

Comets are an exception! You might just be able to get a comet named after yourself. You'll need skill, equipment, time, dark skies, and a bit of luck. In short, you'll need to discover one. When you see a name like "Swift-Tuttle" you know it was a tie between two people (for lists of comet names see here). Keep in mind, there is a lot of skilled competition and a couple of robots called LINEAR and NEAT as well as the Catalina Sky Survey.

Update (April 18): A series of articles appeared on this topic where several professional astronomers chimed in. It was great to see the additional depth and insight a couple of pros can bring to the table. Especially of interest are the conflicts created. The negative emotional impact of someone who's been ripped off against the positive educational and awareness value of getting people interested. I have to say the original article was more positive than I expected and made me think. But I have to side with Stuart about these charlatans.
One of the readers pointed out a free name a star site! You can check it out here. Just remember it's just for entertainment.

Update:  There are other objects that you can name, see Pet Rocks? Naming things in Space

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