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Stars for Sale?

Each night is a chance to behold a divine masterpiece. Just look up and you can see the stars twinkling like gems on the endless black canvas of sky. In movies, lovers often stargaze, naming stars after each other. The idea of actually owning a star and naming it after someone is fascinating, but the question remains: is it possible in real life?

According to the International Astronomical Union, it is impossible to legally buy a star and name it after someone. So be wary of companies that claim to be official star –naming agencies. One of which is the International Star Registry, which used to offer helping clients name a star in honor of their loved ones. But in 1998, the company was issued a violation by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs for“deceptive advertising.”

This is because the only way for stars to be named legitimately is through the International Astronomical Union (IAU), an association of professional astronomers, dedicated to professional research and education in astronomy. Stars are given names for one reason alone—for astronomers to locate these celestial bodies more easily. In fact, the IAU has dissociated entirely from advertising and commercial practices to strengthen its identity as an international scientific organization.

To name stars, they are first sorted according to their brightness. Proper names are given up to the third brightest stars.Because history reveals that much of the modern math and astronomy we use today originated in Arabia, some of the stars’ names are Arabic, such as Betelgeuse and Dubhe.

Another system that the IAU follows in naming stars was proposed by Johann Bayerof Bavaria. Bayer assigned letters from the Greek alphabet to thebrightest stars of each constellation. Using his system, Polaris is called Alpha UrsaeMinoris, while Dubhe is Alpha UrsaeMajoris.

Meanwhile, faint stars were named through catalogs prepared by astronomers. Frequently used catalogsinclude the Bonner Durchmusterung, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), The Yale Star and The Henry Draper published by the Harvard College Observatory. A specialized catalog called the Deep Objective Prism Survey of the Large Magellanic Cloud published by Warner and Swasey Observatory was used to name the Supernova of 1987(Supernova 1987A), one of the major astronomical events of this centuryidentified with the star named SK -69 202.

These are the only systems accepted and used by the International Astronomical Union.

But in the end, how stars are named doesn’t alter the beauty of the night sky. When darkness reigns, everyone on this planet gets to witness the breathtaking scenery that satisfies our inner astrophiles.


Sources: International Astronomical Union, UW Madison Astronomy


By Charie Abarca, PanahonTV Intern