Hmm.. it seems I'm a little late on this one.
I was ready to rip the International Star Registry a new one and call them all kinds of names, but a whole lot of people have beat me to it, it appears, and now the ISR has bowed in complete submission and surrender.
This was the situation. Back in high school, I heard about this great gift idea. For about 40 or 50 bucks, you could actually name a star. The are millions of catalogued stars out there, most of them with just numerical designations and coordinates, so the international astronomy community could raise a little money by selling people the right to name them. What a cool idea! How awesome would it be to name an actual star? I could just imagine some future colony in a spaceship approaching my star, consulting their ancient charts, saying "Captain, it appears we're approaching the Dagobah system, in the Asshat cluster..."
And of course let's not forget the massive points one would earn naming a star after your sweetheart. You wouldn't have to lift a finger for the rest of the day, I can promise you that.
So here was this great idea, and I was ready with my wallet open to start naming stars left and right. And then I found out the truth. The truth is that the International Star Registry is just a private commerical organization with absolutely no authority to name anything after anybody. No authority whatsoever. It's just a couple of guys in an office. Their website was a masterpiece of deception. They didn't technically lie. They said things like:
"The name of your star will be registered and copywritten."
(Well, if by register, you mean "written down", then yes.)
"It will be published in the annual journal of astronomical names and designations."
(It was some book that they published themselves. It carried no additional meaning.)
"You will receive a signed certificate and a star chart with the position of your star indicated."
(Yup. They certainly would send you those things.)
Every choice of word and phrase was calculated to make it appear that this was official and legit, while at the same time cautiously avoiding any outright falsehood. It was clear that the International Star Registry business model depended entirely on deception. People would only buy a Star from ISR if they could be made to believe that ISR was offering something that it wasn't.
This cuts right to the core of things I despise the most. This is as bad as Digimon. For a while I would rant to whoever would listen about the ISR fake-out and how they were preying on innocent sentiment to make a quick buck.
But apparantly there have been some developments. I googled the ISR and came up with a lot of warnings from consumers, astronomers, all sorts of people - cautioning people about the scam. I also found a cease and desist type letter from the city of New York. http://www.enzerink.net/peter/astronomy/starfaq/isr_news.html
So then I went and checked the ISR website itself. Whoa nelly has it changed its tune! It's totally different now. They're no longer trying to fake you out. Now they're explicit that it's just a fun, make-believe gesture. What a 180! Go and see yourself.
At the bottom is their little, sad disclaimer. "International Star Registry star naming is not recognized by the scientific community. Your star’s name is reserved in Internatnal Star Registry records only." (Internatnal?) On the "About Us" page, they make plain that it's all just for fun. Ha ha! Up yours, International Star Registry!
So that's a little victory for the good guys huh? On a side note, I found out while doing this research that Nicole Kidman bought a star and named it "Forever Tom". Jesus. If you really were under the impression that you were giving a star a permanent name, could you please not make future generations heave and puke? (I'm guessing also it was a really small star that hung around even smaller astronomical objects to look big by comparison.)