35

There are plenty of companies around that let you purchase a star. They claim that the star will be named as you direct and they issue you a certificate of ownership.

I realize that the T&C's for a lot of these deals have disclaimers within them, however there is still a public perception that you can buy a star.

So is it possible to purchase, or name, a star in a way that is legally recognized?

This question inspired by Flimzy's comment

  • 8
    You don't really have to buy it, per se. The legal principle of terra nullius (stella nullius?) should apply - all you've got to do is build a ship and go there; establish a homestead. This is all assuming it's not inhabited. – Random832 Apr 29 '13 at 11:20
  • 6
    Well, sure. I'd be happy to sell you a good one. A real beaut, I tell you. I'll even give you a Certificate of Ownership suitable for framing. Just send US$1500 in unmarked, used bills of small denomination and a SASE to ... – dmckee Apr 29 '13 at 15:12
  • 1
    @Random832 Even if it doesn't, you could seize it by force, establish a government and apply to the United Nations for recognition as an independent state. The long process of achieving international recognition will be nothing after the time taken to cross interstellar space. – Colin Pickard Apr 29 '13 at 15:35
  • 9
    Don't trust dmckee, he's a crook! I bought the Brooklyn Bridge from this user, and when I went to see it, it was old and shabby (not like the picture) and all these people and cars were using it, like totally ignoring that I own it now. Turns out, the title he transferred to me was fake; it wasn't his to sell. So let this be a warning to you. – Kaz Apr 29 '13 at 23:35
  • 4
    Kaz, old friend! Let me make it up to you. I've got this ocean front property just outside of Phoenix I can let you have for a song. – dmckee Apr 30 '13 at 0:10
54

The International Astronomical Union

acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies (stars, planets, asteroids, etc.) and any surface features on them.

and they say:

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 whatever.

As an international scientific organization, the IAU dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of "selling" fictitious star names or "real estate" on other planets or moons in the Solar System.

Accordingly, the IAU maintains no list of the (several competing) enterprises in this business in individual countries of the world.


From Ask an Astronomer at Cornell University:

Unfortunately it's not really possible to officially "purchase" a star for someone, although many people think so and there are companies that advertise this service.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the organization that is responsible for naming celestial objects, and they don't take requests from anyone (even astronomers) for star names.

There are places where you can "buy a star", and you will get a certificate and star maps, but these names are not official and are not used in astronomy. In fact, the companies that do this don't even make an effort to communicate with real astronomers on the subject, they just keep a big book or spreadsheet with everyone's name in it.

Most people in astronomy, especially the IAU, consider the "star purchasing" idea to be a huge scam that is taking advantage of people's love of the sky to make a lot of money.

  • 4
    And the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs issued a violation against a company that was offering this back in the 1980's. – Ian Apr 29 '13 at 9:39
  • 5
    @Ian - You probably mean 1998, but according to this article: Though the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs cited ISR in 1998 for engaging in deceptive trade practices, the company was cleared of wrongdoing by the Illinois attorney general's office. (ISR = International Star Registry) – Oliver_C Apr 29 '13 at 10:02
  • ah, the wiki says that they were accused in the 80's. Didn't check through to when it was processed. – Ian Apr 29 '13 at 10:37
2

Let's distinguish between the two concepts:

  • Naming a star. To name a star, or buy a name of a star, does not mean a person owns the star, or gives a person, corporation, or state the right to that star or its real land as property. Regarding 'naming a star', please review @Oliver_c answer.

  • Owning a star. No Individual, country, or corporation has legal right of ownership of a star, planet, or "extraterrestrial" or "celestial" body. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty forbade states from claiming terrestrial sovereignty.

Link to United Nations Treaty and Principles on Outer Space

It could be argued that, just as the United Nations forbids any party to own a planet or star, the United Nations has no right to manage or establish laws on property beyond Earth.

  • My understanding of the Outer Space Treaty is that it prevents nations from claiming celestial bodies, but it does not prevent individuals from doing so. This, combined with his purchase of the Lunokhod 2, was the basis for Richard Garriot claiming ownership of (part of) the Moon. – Brian S Jul 16 '14 at 19:28
  • @BrianS Claiming ownership is one thing. Getting a court to recognize your ownership and sanction people who infringe on your property rights is another, especially when there is no court which is responsible (the supreme court of the united states ruled in 1970 that the moon is not part of their jurisdiction). – Philipp Jul 17 '14 at 9:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .