A simple internet search for “buy a star” will produce a host of websites promising you the deeds to a star. Of course, you’ll never be able to visit your star but the idea of owning one and being able to point to these divine spots of light is enough to fund a whole industry of star sellers. Usually, you will be sent a bunch of leaflets, photos and information relating to your star. They even send you the coordinates of your star, should you choose to look for it.
That’s where, among others, the International Astronomical Union comes in. They regularly get people asking for help buying or locating “his/her” star. They can probably help you locate the star itself but they have some bad news attached:
The IAU frequently receives requests from individuals who want to buy stars or name stars after other persons. Some commercial enterprises purport to offer such services for a fee. However, such "names" have no formal or official validity whatsoever. Similar rules on "buying" names apply to star clusters and galaxies as well. For bodies in the Solar System , special procedures for assigning official names apply (see the IAU theme "Naming Astronomical Objects"), but in no case are commercial transactions involved.
To put it simply, the “Star Deeds” are worth less than the paper they are printed in. No doubt the same stars have been sold numerous times. There are an infinite number of stars in the universe but only around 9,000 visible stars (which are the ones consumers are after).
This isn’t anything new. Star salespeople have been around for a long time and so has the knowledge that the stars are not for sale, and yet business has never been better.
Is it illegal? Perhaps not. If you read through the small print of the star seller’s website they may admit to it, albeit indirectly. One of the biggest “star sellers” explains your star will be added to their ‘unique star registry’. This sounds official but you or I could create our own star registry. They also state it should be treated as a novelty gift. A strange gift, right? Surprise, here’s a star I bought you but you don’t own! If the emphasis is on ‘novelty’ then I think funnier to write the deeds yourself!
Have you fallen for it?
Well, it’s really not the end of the world. It’s a thoughtful and loving gesture and, hey, you may as well call it your star. No one else is there (as far as we know!).