Does NASA Recognize Star Naming Services?

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In a word, no!  In two more words, so what? 

There seems to be some buzz among certain up-tight bloggers that star registration companies are a scam and a rip-off.  Well, I guess it depends what you think you're getting.  As you can see from any Google search, the only "official" star registry is published by the International Astronomical Union, or IAU.  The IAU has nothing to do with NASA, and in fact NASA doesn't have anything to do with star names and never has.  The IAU catalog is the main catalog used by astronomers, and every star in it is referred to by a number, not a name - each star has exact coordinates, and then a catalog number (and there are several catalogs too!), but all the catalogs use numbers.  So if you consider these catalogs to be "official", like most people do, you would still be faced with several different ways of referring to a given star - but they'd all be numbers, not names.

But I thought some stars have "real" names!  What about Sirius, and Regulus, and the North Star?  Well, yes, these are popular names for these bright stars, but do you think Japanese people say "The North Star"?  Do you think Iranians say "Sirius", or that Maori Bushmen talk about "Regulus"?  I got news for you - even these bright important stars have many, many names, and one name may be more popular and well known than another, but none of them are the "official" name.  So if you name a star with a star naming company, your name isn't "official" either.  So uptight people should relax a bit about that whole argument.   

Now, some of these "star-naming" sites do suggest they are official, or associated with some government or international organization of some kind, and that's unfortunate because none of them are.  There's a site called 
starwishing.com which has this bizarre, official-sounding statement: "The Millennium Chronicle's Star Catalog only recognizes official stars listed by Star Deed and Star Wishing. No other web site, company or organization may claim affiliation or partnership with The Millennium Chronicle or its online star catalog databases."    Or the International Star Registry, which has a name which seems to suggest some international officialdom of some sort, who promise that your star name will be copyrighted with the United States Patent and Trademark Office - well, anyone can get a book or pamphlet copyrighted with the USPTO for $105 and a postage stamp (want to know how?  Here is the step by step process).  Having a copyright doesn't mean the US government is making any official statement about the contents of the book.  Hitler's autobiography "Mein Kampf" is copyrighted too, but the US Government isn't giving Hitler or his thoughts any approval by issuing a copyright. 

Some sites are clear about the fact that star naming isn't official, and they make this symbolic naming process "real" in other ways.  For instance,
Name A Star Live includes a prepaid code that lets you view your star on a live, web-enabled telescope on the Canary Islands (they also launch star names and messages into space, where they remain in an orbiting 'space archive', which strikes me as just as permanent and official as copywriting a list of star names in the library of congress.  NameAStarLive uses their star naming service to help fund their scientific launches (they are a real aerospace company and have been sending various payloads to space since 1982, so the revenues raised by including star names with their payload reduces their costs).  Also, since some of their space launches are on board rockets that are launched by NASA, there is a government component to it as well, although NameAStarLive doesn't claim to have any official connection to the US government). 

There is an
observatory in Australia that offers not only to "register" a star name in their database (not anything official, they disclose - it their own star catalog, the Sydney Southern Star Catalog, which they pubished originally in 1983 before they even thought of using star naming as a way to get people exccited about astronomy and provide needed funds for their observatory), but also to let you come to the observatory with your friends to view your star with a real astronomer!  Sounds like a romantic evening if it's not too cold.

No matter what the star naming companies promise, or suggest, about being official, there is no official star naming company, no official star name register, and no official star naming governing body, apart from the IAU - and the IAU name stars by number anyway.  So don't be fooled, but do check out the competition, and if star naming sounds fun and romantic to you, do it!