Why Don't You Name Stars?
Go ahead! There's nothing to stop you! You, anyone else, any enterprise has an equal right to moniker stars.
It's widely, though incorrectly, believed that the International Astronomical Union has the prerogative to name stars. Yes, the lAU is officially recognized to name celestial stuff, but only by the world scientific community. There is no international convention that gives the lAU legal standing.
I hope you read our news item on page 28 of last month s issue that describes recent activities of the International Star Registry. A lot of negative buzz popped up in May about this commercial enterprise, which has been raking in cash since 1979 — $50 million or so — by naming stars. Apparendy, the ISR pressured educators against speaking out about star-naming practices and also hassled competitors.
It's a wonderful business — the inventory is free and unlimited!
The cognoscenti are annoyed that commercial operations are cashing in by selling star names to naive, amorous, or sycophantic people. But selling the skies is nothing new. Educational institutions, like planétariums, have fundraised by selling everything from stars on a dome to plots on the Moon. Sure, a chasm separates public largess from commercial greed, but
You've got to admit that the ISR and its clones are on to something. So I offer this idea: every amateur-astronomy club should go into the star-naming business! The proceeds could be used to fund a community observatory or support star parties for local residents — maybe even with free hamburgers, soda pop, and ice cream.
Such an effort would also provide an opportunity for club members to solicit newspapers, radio, and TV — to cheer-lead for astronomy, to educate about good lighting practices, and to tell the public why the club's star names are as good as anyone else's. (Even better, go nonprofit so contributors can take tax write-offs.) Such stellar-christening promotions should target the holiday season, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day. The ISR advertises widely then, and its marketing efforts might actually enhance your cause by focusing public attention.
You might publish the names of donors in a local newspaper, or maintain an "honor roll" at your clubhouse, or have a posting on your Web site. And don't forget "official" certificates!
"Better science education through star naming" isn't a bad battle cry!