Bollywood star Shahid Kapoor made it to celestial stardom, quite literally, when some fans chose to buy a star in his name in the Orion constellation last week for his birthday. Last year, Shah Rukh Khan got his name etched on lunar soil when fans named the ‘Sea of Tranquility’ crater after him.
Scores of websites [1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and more] are selling the stars, moon and galaxies to whoever has money to buy a celestial gift for their loved ones. Organisations and individuals have also been controversially selling extra-terrestrial real estate on other planets, natural satellites or space — a bit of the moon, an acre of Mars and a yard of the space north-west of Andromeda galaxy!
In the wake of this new-found craze among Indians to ‘name a star’, here’s some reality check: the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the internationally recognized authority which designates all heavenly bodies according to globally accepted rules. The IAU clearly “dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of ‘selling’ fictitious star names or ‘real estate’ on other planets or moons in the Solar System.”
Here is an interesting fact sheet by IAU on why stars don’t get real names instead of boring numbers, who is legally responsible for naming objects in the sky and why the IAU can’t do much about the mushrooming of such star-sellers across the world. Turns out, the certificates issued by these star-sellers are only expensive pieces of paper that give you a temporary feeling of happiness. The star is named after someone in their company’s ‘individual registry’ — which isn’t saying much!
So the next time you hear about a Bollywood or Hollywood star being reborn in the sky, just know that a bunch of gullible, star-struck people lost some money to a bunch of dream-sellers!