How to name a star after someone? Most of us would love to see our names written into space, but is it even possible?
Can you name a star? If you think you can then try our quiz!
If you’ve ever looked at the night sky, you’ll notice there’s no shortage of stars. Some of these are very bright stars, but others are much dimmer. How can you tell if the brightest star or dimmer?
In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to identify different types of stars based on their brightness.
There are two main types of stars: Main sequence stars and red giant stars. MS stars are smaller and cooler than RG stars.
RG stars have exhausted their nuclear fuel supply and will continue to burn for some time before they die out.
MS stars are in the middle of their lives. They’re still burning hydrogen in their cores, but they’re also fusing heavier elements like helium and carbon.
The most common type of star we see in the night sky is the Sun. The Sun is an MS star that has burned through its core fuel supply. It’s now expanding away from the center of the galaxy.
Can You Really Name a Star?
You could even go so far as naming a whole constellation after someone who has passed away. Celebrate a special occasion by making something beautiful out of paper mache! Can you really five names for stars by their constellation?
The answer is yes, and no.
Names of astronomical objects are agreed upon by the International Astronomical Union. If this name sounds familiar, it’s the same people who voted that Pluto is not a planet.
There are a few stars with traditional names which have been passed down through history. Names like Betelgeuse, Sirius, or Rigel. Others were named in the last few hundred years for highly influential professional astronomers.
These are the common names, agreed upon by the astronomical community.
Most stars, especially dim ones, are only given coordinates and a designation in a catalog. There are millions and millions of stars out there with a long string of numbers and letters for a name. There’s the Gliese catalog of nearby stars or the Guide Star Catalog which contains 945 million stars.
It has not adopted any new star designations since its creation in 1919. In short, numbers are far better than words at describing astronomical objects such as stars.
What if there were no stars for people to name? These companies maintain their own databases containing stars from the catalogs they sell and associate them with specific names. These names won’t be accepted into any official lists of proper names because they’re not real words.
You won’t see your name appearing in a scientific research journal. In fact, it’s possible that the star you’ve named with one organization will be given a different name by another group.
So can you really name a star after yourself or a loved one?
You can certainly name a building named for someone else after yourself if you want to. You may call it whatever you like, but everyone else will know better than to question your claim.
There are a few objects that can be named, and recognized by the IAU.
You may be able to name an object discovered by NASA if you find one before anyone else does. In fact, comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9) was first detected by two separate teams of astronomers working independently at different observatories.
Discovering an asteroid or KBO could lead to suggestions for new names. You’d then need to get them approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Asteroid names start with an “A” followed by numbers from 1 through 10; Comets’ names begin with C followed by numbers from 0 through 9.
The amateur astronomer Jeff Medkeff, who tragically died of liver cancer at age 40, named asteroids after a handful of people in the astronomy, space, and skeptic community.
Traditionally, Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) were named after characters from Greek mythologies. So, the Caltech team suggested the following names for Eris, Makemake, and Haumea: Plutino, Styx, and Kerberos.
What about extrasolar planets? Currently, these planets orbit their stars under the names of the stars they’re orbiting. As an example, if a planet was found orbiting one of the closest stars in the Gliese catalog, it would be assigned a letter designation (i.e., GJ).
A group called Uwingu hopes to find new exoplanets by using an innovative method known as microlensing. They hope to use their findings to give donors the chance to name these newly discovered worlds. However, they haven’t yet decided whether to adopt this strategy at present.
Personally, I think we should allow people to name astronomical objects like planets and stars. It could spark interest among people who don’t normally pay attention to science news, connect them directly to the amazing things going on in space, and help fund underfunded scientific projects.
Of course, naming a star is only half the battle. The other part is making sure that the name sticks around. If you name a star after yourself, you’ll have to keep up with the changing nomenclature. For instance, when Pluto became a dwarf planet, its name changed to “Pluto”.
If you name a star after someone else, you’ll probably have to change the name every time a new discovery comes out. This means that the person whose name you chose might not even be alive anymore.
If you do decide to name something after yourself, make sure you choose a unique name so that no one else has already used it.
In general, the best way to avoid confusion is to pick a name that doesn’t sound too similar to any existing names. For instance, you wouldn’t want to name a star after your dog because there’s a Star Trek character named Spock.
Also, try to come up with a name that’s easy to remember. That way, you won’t forget what you named it!
I’m afraid that’s impossible. There are many thousands of stars in our galaxy alone. And since most stars are not visible to the naked eye, it’s very unlikely that you can see any star without knowing which one it is.
There is a project called NameExoWorlds where you can submit ideas for naming exoplanets.
As far as I know, there isn’t anything like this for naming stars. But maybe you can propose a list of names for approval.
As far as I understand, there’s no official procedure for naming stars. There’s also no formal procedure for naming planets either.
The International Astronomical Union, however, does have a set of guidelines for naming asteroids. These include:
- Names must be Latin or English;
- Names must consist of between 3 and 8 words;
- Names may contain numbers but not more than 2 consecutive numbers;
- Names must start with a capital letter;
- Names cannot refer to living persons, places, institutions, organizations, products, or brands;
- Names must not be obscene or defamatory;
- Names must not infringe upon trademarks or copyrights;
- Names must not cause offense to religious sensibilities;
- Names must not violate any law or regulation.
So, if you want to name a star, you’ll need to check all those rules before submitting your idea.
Another possibility is to ask the discoverer of the star to assign a name to it. You can then contact him/her via email and ask for permission to use his/her name.