International Hollywood Star Registry

By Phil Plait | February 18, 2012 7:07 am

I am not exactly a fan of those companies that claim to sell stars. Given that the biggest, the International Star Registry, was issued a violation by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs for using deceptive practices*, you might just be able to figure out why. They mislead people into thinking they were actually buying official star names, when the truth is those folks were really just throwing money down the drain. You’d be better off printing your own certificate and donating the money to a local planetarium.

Sometimes, though, debunking is better done through satirical mockery, and that’s why I’m happy comedian Brandon Muller told me about a video he made: The International Hollywood Star Registry. It’s really funny!

Ha! And if you look closely, and read Ms. Wilkerson’s Wikipedia entry, you’ll see a familiar name…

[You might do better to watch the video in HD and pause the video at this point.]

If you want to read more about the ISR’s shenanigans, you can look at their (legit) Wikipedia entry, or an article I wrote for CSICOP tearing them apart, or the chapter in my book Bad Astronomy doing the same.


* I originally wrote that ISR was "convicted of ten counts of misleading advertising" but in fact it was issued a violation for deceptive practices.

<del datetime="2012-02-27T19:25:11+00:00"

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Debunking, Humor, Piece of mind, Skepticism
MORE ABOUT: Brandon Muller, ISR

Comments (26)

  1. Cindy

    I like the Wikipedia entry.

  2. ctj

    yes, but the bit about jimmy wales making an “unflattering and uneditable” wiki page about you was better.

  3. Don

    Actually, I have a bit of a bone to pick with you, Phil, about that chapter in your book you mention here. I work for Perkins Obs. and was volunteer then when the ISR was trying to intimidate OWU and the observatory. I think if you ever do a reprint of your book, you should contact us to get the story strait about that incident. There was much happening behind the scenes that you were not made aware of when you interviewed the parties involved.

  4. John Paradox

    Interestingly, I just finished Harry Turtledove’s novel Supervolcano: Eruption and there’s a short reference to the International Star Registry, not by name, but one character says something about having named a star “Rick and Leslie [not the real names] Forever”.

    J/P=?

  5. I don’t understand their logic. Hollywood stars explode MUCH more frequently, unpredictably, and abruptly than real stars…

  6. jcm
  7. Mark

    Sigh. My wife put some money down that particular hole as a “gift” for Christmas this year. I’m trying to avoid completing the “registry form,” avoiding mention of it, and hoping she forgets about it… even though the damage is done, I don’t want to act like I approve of them (and don’t want to get my name on their mailing lists if I can avoid it). The Hollywood version sounds more fun! :D

  8. Well, if people want to spend money on stars and receive fancy certificates, they can just as well sponsor actual research. What about adopting a star, instead of “buying” it? There is a fundraising campaign right now at FundaGeek, to sponsor Kepler research. (Why give money to a NASA mission, you ask? The non-exoplanet folks form a large consortium that receives only data and support but everybody have to raise their own funding. Like our group here in Hungary.) Donations will also help providing grants for young astronomers to come to the next Kepler asteroseismic conference. Take a look:

    http://www.fundageek.com/project/detail/332/Pale-Blue-Dot-project
    http://whitedwarf.org/palebluedot/

    (Hey Phil, any chance for some noise about this project? Pretty please?)

  9. Bill

    You guys need to lighten up on star naming. The majority of people still want to do it even though they know novelty star naming is not official. It seems people don’t care about the IAU and want to name stars for their loved one anyway.

  10. Classic. :-)

    Y’know that’s almost tempting. ;-)

    (Imagines renaming Mel Gibson something like Israel Ben Cohen or Marilyn Monroe as Marilyn Manson or Tom Cruise Annie Jump Couch*.) ;-)

    *****
    PS. With apologies to Annie Jump Canon – click on my name for her wikipage.

  11. VinceRN

    International Star Registry – proving P. T. Barnum right since 1979!

  12. SkyGazer

    “Rick Santorum sucks “Facts” (= outrageous lies) about euthanasia in the Netherlands out of his thumbs”

    First of all my apologies for posting this of topic comment.
    But I got very angry and with me a lot of Dutch.
    Since the original poster in the link below said it so eloquently I simply put the link here.

    museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/forums/viewthread/14581/

  13. Curt

    I don’t know if every email subscriber to your blog had this, but at the bottom of my page was a Google ad for NameAStarLive.com … starting price $19.95.

    I think this qualifies as irony?

  14. (Looks like my comment is still awaiting moderation, so here it goes without the links:)

    Well, if people want to spend money on stars and receive fancy certificates, they can just as well sponsor actual research. What about adopting a star, instead of “buying” it? There is a fundraising campaign right now at FundaGeek, to sponsor Kepler research. (Why give more money for a NASA mission, you ask? The non-exoplanet folks form a large consortium that receives data and support but all research groups have to raise their own funding. Like our group here in Hungary.) Donations will also help providing grants for young astronomers to come to the next Kepler asteroseismic conference. Take a look:

    fundageek.com/project/detail/332/Pale-Blue-Dot-project
    whitedwarf.org/palebluedot/

    Hey Phil, any chance for some noise about this project? Pretty please?

  15. #11 VinceRN:
    Very well said!

    The most odious thing about this business is that they actively encourgae people to name stars for deceased people. Those who “buy a star” for their wife or girlfriend may be aware that they are simply buying a novelty with no real meaning, but the same doesn’t apply to those doing so as memorials. I don’t believe that anyone would pay for a “memorial” for a deceased loved one, unless they believed it to be genuine and official.
    A friend of mine, who is a teacher, and also used to be the Director of a public observatory, once had several members of a family come along, asking him to show them the star which they genuinely believed was named for a member of their family, who had died at the age of 19. This was especially unpleasant for my friend, as he had actually known the dead boy; he had been one of his students. He chose the “keep quiet and not hurt their feelings” option, but felt most uncomfortable doing so.
    At least ISR now have the decency to state on their web site that their names are not recognised by astronomers – though I don’t think they did years ago; perhaps they added this after the New York rulings. But some of their competitors word their advertising to give the impression, without actually saying so, that their catalogues are somehow “official”. One even uses the deliberately misleading name of “Ministry of Federal Star Registration”, which is clearly intended to fool people that it’s a government department!

  16. Makoto

    I particularly enjoyed the certificate labelled “By the Power of Grayskull”.. on a more serious note, my parents “bought” one of those star certificates for my grandfather a few years back. I tried to talk them out of it, but alas, they went ahead and poured money into that pit.

  17. Buzz Parsec

    #9 Bill:

    If they want to get an unofficial name, they can do it themselves (or get a friend with some calligraphy skills) and create a certificate that is every bit as valid as the ISR’s basically for free. Or are you just an ISR troll?

  18. Jackson

    #9 Bill, I guess you’re missing the point. You can name a star after a loved one without any intermediary. I have done that. It was a sixth birthday present. She can spot it in the sky.

    Would she appreciate it more if I paid a company $49 to write down her name on the company’s list? No, and that would be a disservice as it would ruin a perfect teaching moment about stupidity in this world. Instead, she spent the $49 on astronomy books.

    If you don’t encourage them, eventually they will go away.

  19. #9 Bill, #17 Buzz:
    Exactly, Buzz. Any such arbitrary name would have exactly the same “validity” as any assigned by ISR, i.e. it would mean a lot to the two people concerned , and precisely nothing to anyone else.
    Also, if a couple decided to regard a particular star as “their star”, then they would choose a bright naked-eye one. Even ISR accept that “renaming” a star which has a traditional name dating back centuries would be absurd; the stars they claim to “rename” are not even visible to the naked eye ( hence the dilemma for astronomers, described in Phil’s linked article and my comment #15 ), which sort of defeats the object!

  20. @#15: I’ve heard similar stories a few times. I view these people as the scum of the Earth, alongside those selling plots of land on the Moon.

  21. GSC 2580.2147

    Hmmm they registered my name and it shows up just fine.

    -gsc 2580.2147

  22. Is Santorum trying for the ‘frothiest lie of the week’? Over this last weekend he’s been saying the most outrageous, unsupportable comments about everything Obama/Democrat. It’s hilarious since a large majority of Americans can see through the smoke screen and even more are beginning to see thru it to see the real Santorum – a frothy, nasty thing that leaves a stain on everything it touches. (and I’m not talking about the alternative definition either).

  23. flip

    I actually wanted to get a star named once upon a time. This was *long* before I started reading about astronomy. For the average person, who doesn’t know about how stars get named or how star catalogues work, it doesn’t seem that unreasonable – after all, there are billions of objects out there, and most are unnamed with no ‘claim’ to them. Sure, it sounds stupid now, but I can understand how people can get suckered. (And no, I never got that star name… thankfully)

  24. #20 Phillip:
    I don’t know about in the US, but here in the UK, the only version of “selling plots of land on the Moon” I’ve come across was worded in such a way that no-one with two brain cells to rub together could possible not realise that it was nothing but a worthless novelty. The star naming companies, OTOH, do the opposite, and lead people to believe that their names have some “official” status, which they don’t.
    The other difference is that claiming to genuinely sell land on the Moon is illegal, but claiming to name stars unfortunately isn’t.
    I agree that they are the scum of the Earth – as evidenced by their scare tactics against anyone who tells the truth. As Phil says in his linked article, ISR have actually threatened lawsuits against astronomers, for telling the truth about their business – even when they were careful not to use any defamatory language.

  25. Another thing; here in the UK, the star namers have been given some publicity in the media, which would have led FSM knows how many people to believe that they were genuine and respectable; it doesn’t help when prominent public figures are taken in by the scam!!!
    Some years ago, our former Prime Minister, John Major, fell for it, and “named” a star in honour of a group of children who were murdered by a psychopath.
    And the country’s most popular soap opera, Coronation Street, once had a storyline about a character “buying a star” for his girlfriend. The infuriating thing about this was that the character concerned was actually supposed to be an amateur astronomer!!!! ( And in line with the usual annoying TV cliche, was portrayed as a nerdy idiot. ) Had the scriptwriters bothered to do the slightest bit of research into the subject, they would of course have found that no astronomer would ever do such a thing!

  26. Matt B.

    That was an awesome video, but how did all the comments get struck through?

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