Published: 12th May 2020
Naming a star after your loved one during the lockdown? Here's why it's a bad idea to do this online
A lot of online services these days let you name a star after you or your loved ones. They also send you the star's location and a certificate
The pandemic sure did turn the world upside down. Four months ago, if you missed a loved one who lived in a different city, all you had to do was spend some money and book a ticket. Those were the good old days. Before the lockdown.
This is when virtual gifts come to play. These are gifts that you cannot touch but feel. The list may range from a personalised e-card to a photo montage. Browsing through that list, we stumbled upon something that caught our eye. 'Name a Star Online', read the gift's title.
Apparently, naming a star after your girlfriend, boyfriend, mum or dad is quite simple (and not so expensive). Oyehappy.com, a Hyderabad-based start-up is one such platform that lets you name a star after anyone that you love in a go. "Share the name of the person you want to surprise, select the zodiac and a star will automatically be picked for them. You can also add your own message on the star chart as well," reads the website's gift description. Upon entering the details and obviously paying the designated fee, which in this case is Rs 1,490, the person after whom the star is 'named' gets a personalised certificate with their name and a constellation chart with the location of the star, over email and WhatsApp.
Oye Happy's star certificate
This may sound intriguing and dreamy for many. But is it really? The search took us to a question and answer section of NASA, where someone had asked the agency, "How can I buy a star?" To this, NASA responded, "When you talk about "buying stars" or "naming stars" for yourself or a friend, you are most likely referring to the claims of one of the commercial companies who promise to do this for you for money. You can do this, but it is not official. Your name will not be listed in any file except the one the company who takes your money keeps. In fact, one of these companies was even issued a violation of deceptive advertising by the State of New York Department of Consumer Affairs." It adds, "The International Astronomical Union is the only official agency which names stars and other celestial objects. There are standardised rules for how objects get their names. None of these rules involve the exchange of cash."
The IAU, an international association of professional astronomers, was set up to promote and safeguard astronomy through international cooperation. We wrote an email to IAU, to find out more. Responding to our email, Ramasamy Venugopal, an official said, "The IAU dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of “selling” fictitious star names or “real estate” on other planets or moons in the Solar System." The FAQ section of IAU makes it easier for you. Let us say that you did pay a certain amount of money to name a star after yourself or your loved one. According to the body, all you get is "an expensive piece of paper and a temporary feeling of happiness, like if you take a cup of tea instead of the Doctor's recommended medicine. But at least you do not risk getting sick by paying for a star name, only losing money."
Only IAU has the right to name celestial objects. They're named in alphanumerics, to identify their position
Now, Oye Happy says that it is "just a facilitator between the naming service and the customer. The company, YourStarForever, is an Accredited Registrar of the Star Dedication Archives." The Star Dedication Archives document the name of your star and its coordinates as well. "Official coordinates and brightness database for star name registration; following the declination, right ascension and apparent magnitude as recognized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and The International Astronomical Union (IAU)," reads its description.
In disbelief, we clicked the star coordinates there, which took us to yourstarforever.com. One of the FAQ answers in this apparently NASA and IAU recognised site reads. "The International Astronomical Union (IAU - http://www.iau.org) is the only body that can officially name a star. And the IAU uses only one internationally recognized system to identify the stars in the sky – either by using preexisting names or by using their precise numerical coordinates. FYI – no one can sell you the rights to officially or exclusively name a star. The IAU does not allow it!"
So, what does one get? The website says, "Your Star Forever provides you with the exact coordinates designated by the IAU. Use these coordinates, a telescope, and some hot chocolate to create an unforgettable date! FYI – some of our stars can even be seen with the naked eye." In simple words, look at any star, with the naked eye or a telescope and call it yours! Do not let your hard-earned money go to waste.
We have written an email to Oyehappy.com, seeking a comment. This copy will be updated once they respond.