Truth About Star Naming: Can You Buy a Star In The Sky? 💫

~5 min

Imagine a perfect gift for your loved one: a real star from the sky! Named after your soulmate, purchased, and certified. How convenient is it that there are so many agencies that sell stars! But wait, why do they refuse to show your star in the local observatory? And why can’t you find the precious name in our stargazing apps Star Walk 2 and Sky Tonight? The sad truth is, you can’t own a star or name it for money — let’s discuss why.


Can I buy a star for real?

No, you absolutely can’t. There is no officially acknowledged commercial star registration. No star catalog, local observatory, or anyone connected to the scientific community would recognize your rights to a star. As the 1967 Outer Space Treaty proclaims, outer space shall be the province of all humankind and be explored in the interests of all countries, not a government or one particular person. So, you can only waste your money on worthless fancy paper. Only the organization that sold you a star will probably acknowledge your rights to it and keep the star in its own internal catalog. However, even that is certain only for the old “reputable” companies (some of them purport to sell stars since the 70s!).

Can I buy a star name?

It’s also not possible to buy a star name. The International Astronomical Union is the only institution with a right to name celestial bodies. And IAU’s position here is clear: “As an international scientific organization, the IAU dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of “selling” fictitious star names, surface feature names, or real estate on other planets or moons in the Solar System.” There are ways to give a name to a celestial object — we’ll tell you about them later, but in no case it’s done for money.

Can I adopt a star?

You can, in a way. Some non-profit organizations suggest to “adopt a star”, which means donating to the research of particular sky objects. You still won’t find your name in official catalogs and won’t truly own a star, but you will get a star certificate for your pleasure and a star marked on the organization’s internal data bank in Google Sky. And the real benefit is that you will contribute to science. Besides, their price for that kind of service is much lower, which is also a way to fight dishonest businesses.

Still, can I buy a star if I really want to?

Well, you can, if you wish, but it probably isn’t worth paying for.

Where and how to buy a star for someone?

There are plenty of businesses that claim you can buy a star online and receive a fancy certificate of ownership. We won't give you the links to these companies because we don't support them and find them deceptive. However, if you're determined to find them anyway, a quick search on Google should do the trick.

Is naming a star real?

As mentioned above, all commercial star services simply keep your name in their private database, but it doesn't become the official designation of the star. So your star name will only be "real" to the company that sold it to you, but you won't find it anywhere else, like official star charts, observatories, or astronomy apps.

Is buying a star name legit?

Commercial star services aren’t illegal, for no law prohibits renaming anything if you don’t use trademarks or offensive words. Hence, a star here is no different from a cat, a toy, or a stone, but again — no official astronomy organization will recognize your “naming rights”. You can as well create and print your own star map.

How much does it cost to name a star?

If you still want to purchase а novelty piece of paper with your name on it but without any legal force — it will usually cost you from $10.

Can I name a star after someone for free?

Some websites offer star names for free and profit from additional products like frames or personalized gift packages. These companies are more honest with their clients, clarifying that they're not officially recognized star registers and only provide symbolic star certificates. Whether you name a star for free or for a price, it is the same thing, but here at least, you don't lose your money.

How to name a star officially?

International Astronomical Union assigns designations of stars recognized and used by the scientific community worldwide. The final decision on a name is always on IAU, but it does encourage the public naming of celestial objects like planetary satellites, newly discovered exoplanets, and their host stars. Names can be chosen through public naming campaigns (like NameExoWorlds), but all of them must strictly follow the naming guidelines of the IAU.

Some space objects have names that seem too strange to be true. Can you figure out which names are real and which we made up? Test your space knowledge with our quiz!

Is It a Real Name?
Can you tell real space objects from fictional ones by their names? Take a try — but no cheating!
Take the quiz!

Designations of stars

Designations of stars are alphanumeric, and now they are automatically assigned by computers. For the stars discovered long ago, scientists use designations from the approved star catalogs. The most famous are the Bayer catalog and the Flamsteed catalog, published in 1603 and 1725. The stars listed in several catalogs can be referred to with the different designations.

Proper names of stars

Proper names are given only to the brightest stars with great cultural, historical, agricultural, or scientific meaning. For instance, the star HR 2491 is also called Sirius, and we know the star HR 424 by the name Polaris. The Working Group on Star Names of IAU collects the ancient star names used in different cultures. It’s aimed to preserve cultural diversity while making it easier to locate, describe, and discuss any sky object in any language. It’s long-term work, and some traditional names are still to be approved.

Stars named after people

Apart from ancient names, IAU may name a star after a historical figure, though it rarely happens. Three of the famous stars dedicated to people are:

  • Cervantes (Mu Arae). Named after Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes.
  • Copernicus (55 Cancri A). Named after astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
  • Cor Caroli (“The Heart of Charles” – Alpha Canum Venaticorum). Named after King Charles I of England.

You have more chances to name a celestial object if you discover it, but you still have to follow the naming rules. If you want to dedicate a sky object to yourself – discover a comet. They are commonly named after individual discoverers or institutions. For example, one of the latest discovered comets C/2021 A1 “Leonard” was named after its discoverer, American astronomer Gregory J. Leonard.

Can you buy stars: Conclusion

So, is naming a star after someone a good gift? No, if you want to make a real present, not a fancy piece of paper. You can "adopt a star" from a nonprofit astronomy project or even get the symbolic star certificate for free if you still want one. But if you truly love stars – buy a telescope or download our free stargazing apps Star Walk 2 or Sky Tonight. They won’t place your name where it doesn’t belong but will help you to learn the actual names, locations, and further details about the infinite universe.

Let all the stars shine out for you!