Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day, Planet George, and why You Can't Name a Star for Your Sweetheart



William Herschel: it's his fault you can't name a star for your sweetie.

Today is Valentine's Day, the traditional day for people in love to celebrate each other's company with gifts like flowers, candy, and other things that have no place on a family-friendly website! In recent years, though, one new phenomenon has come about: pay some money and you can get a star named just for your special someone. While it may seem like a cosmically-cool way to say “I love you,” it is nothing more than a scam of astronomical proportions as no body other than the International Astronomical Union (IAU) can name existing heavenly bodies (find an asteroid and you can name it anything you want!).

The whole reason behind this: it all started with the Planet George fiasco in 1781.

As a result of the Wild West of sorts in the sky, regulations about who could name heavenly bodies started to be tightened shortly thereafter, continuing to the formation of the IAU, which has the final say on any heavenly body's name. What does this mean for you would-be star namers? Hate to say it, but your “certificate” isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

As a final message, here are some final Valentine's Day thoughts:
Box of chocolate: $10
A dozen roses: $20
Fancy dinner: $50
Not being an idiot by “naming” a star: priceless



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