How to Name a Star for Someone

By Christina Hamlett

  • Overview

    If he were living in the 21st century, it's likely that P.T. Barnum would have figured out a clever way to use the Internet to convince people to surprise their loved ones by personally naming grains of sand, feathers of birds or even individual molecules in their honor. The gullibility of individuals who think they're purchasing an actual piece of the universe is certainly evident in the popularity of companies that have made stars in the sky the ultimate must-have gift. Here are two ways to show your honey she means the universe to you.
    Celestial Sales
  • Putting the Galaxy On a Credit Card

  • Step 1

    Understand that the scientific community does not recognize star purchases or care what regular folks decide to nickname them. While star-sellers maintain that your entry is going to be specially inscribed in an official book, it's not a book that the International Astronomical Union is ever going to peruse.
  • Step 2

    Decide on a name for the star you want to buy. This is usually a name that has special meaning to both the recipient and the person who's doing the giving. For instance, it can be something as mirthful as "Aunt Tilly's Sponge Cake," as mystical as "Brigadoon" or simply be a memory-jogging date such as "4-21-98" to commemorate the heavenly moment of when you tied the knot.
  • Step 3

    Star-naming services on the Internet offer prices that range from $30 on up to $500. At a minimum, each of them delivers an official-looking certificate of purchase (frames cost a few dollars extra). You can expedite the process if you want to print out the document on your own computer. Name a Star has been in existence in 1978 and offers packages that include star maps, constellation names, and glossaries of astronomical terms. For kids, it even throws in plush ladybug and turtle mini-planetariums. Star Wishing offers packages for all special occasions and gifts such as a mini planisphere, a copy of the "Star Gazette" and a map with the new star highlighted at the center. Star Foundation advertises itself as the only star-selling service that donates 25 percent of its proceeds to charity. It also offers an official Star Foundation lapel pin. (See Resources for links to these websites.)
  • Step 4

    Place your order using a secure online server. Note: Most of the star websites will put you through a short delay while they supposedly search their extensive data files to make sure the name you have selected is "still available." The reality is that what they really want is just to get your money and, accordingly, they don't want you to wander off to another star website if they tell you that, "No, 'Aunt Tilly's Sponge Cake' was taken 2 years ago." By making you wait 30 to 60 seconds and then congratulating you on your smart choice, the psychology is that you will feel better about yourself and eagerly hit the Send button.

  • Step 5

    Wait for your package to arrive.
  • Step 6

    Astonish your loved one by saying "Ta-da!" and suggesting that you immediately go outside that evening and see if he can pick it out. If he's as gullible as you are, don't be surprised if he swears that he knows exactly which one of those billions of brilliantly twinkling lights is the gift from you. If, however, both of you are smart enough to know that stars aren't really for sale, it's still a lovely gesture and allows you to say in all honesty, "You're already my sun and my moon so I decided to throw in a few stars as well."
  • Putting Your Imagination to Work (and Saving Money)

    • Step 1

      Decide on the perfect name for your star. You don't even have to perform any preliminary research to see if someone has already grabbed it because what you're going to create carries as little authenticity as that spiffy certificate you could have bought online.
    • Step 2

      Design an attractive certificate. Most word processing programs have templates already loaded onto them where you simply enter the pertinent information. In this case, it would be the name of the star, the name of the recipient, the date the star was "officially" named, and a scribbled signature of a fictitious person at a fictitious space agency. It's also easy enough to find stock photos of the universe on the Internet. Print out one that you like and circle one of the stars.
    • Step 3

      Purchase an attractive frame for the certificate and wrap it up to give as a gift.
    • Step 4

      Astonish your loved one by saying "Ta-da!" and suggesting that you immediately go outside that evening and see if he can pick it out. Since the fictitious scribble will probably have tipped him off that you created this project yourself, don't be surprised if he plays along with it in good humor and loves you all the more for the time and creativity you put into it. And hey, look at all that money you saved!
    • Skill: Easy
    • Warning:
    • Use caution when making online purchases. The bottom line is that anyone with a website, a computer, and the imagination to churn out official looking scientific documents can charge whatever he wants as long as he feels there's a market for it. Since the entire process costs them less than $2 (including postage and handling), it's not likely that he'll risk you suing him if he doesn't make good on your $100 purchase. What you do need to be cautious about, however, is how much personal information you divulge.

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