For more than 30 years, “name-a-star” companies have let customers pay a nominal fee, usually as low as $20, for documentation of their very own space entity.Their business practices have long been called into question — particularly because the stars you name aren’t recognised by anyone outside the company you paid, according to Wired.
Still, they continue to do business. The websites advertise their services as a way to commemorate a deceased family member or a relationship.
Well, here’s another reason to chalk up these businesses as a fraud: actually naming stars would make it impossible for astronomers to do their jobs.
The International Astronomical Union has a good explanation of why name-a-star businesses don’t work. They also explain that naming stars would result in “mounting confusion” for scientists and wasting taxpayer dollars.
The IAU has an extensive catalogue that names star by coordinate.That’s what’s used by researchers. They explain:
Names are fine for small groups of well-known objects, like the planets or naked-eye stars, but useless for huge numbers – remember, we know hundreds of millions of stars! Precise coordinates (positions in the sky), possibly found via a catalogue number, provide an exact identification. The same is actually true for humans: Finding Maria Gonzalez in Argentina or John Smith in Britain just from their names is pretty hopeless, but if you know their precise address (perhaps from their social security number) you can contact them without knowing their name at all.
Bottom line: people can’t really name stars and probably never will.
NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.