FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 8, 1998
Contact: Tom Sclafani, 212-487-4239 & 917-672-4604

Consumer Affairs Commissioner Polonetsky Warns Consumers:
Buying A Star Won't Make You One"

Commissioner Jules Polonetsky Warns Mother's Day Gift-Givers About Turning Their Mother's Into Stars; Star-Naming Company Issued a Violation for Deceptive Advertising

For those sons and daughters looking to make their mothers "stars" this weekend, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jules Polonetsky today said that paying to name stars after loved ones is simply throwing money into a black hole. The Commissioner said that companies that offer to "officially" name a star fail to tell consumers that they don't have the authority to do it. The International Astronomical Union is the only recognized star-naming organization, and it does not sell names.

As a result of a Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) investigation, the agency has issued a violation against an Illinois star-naming company for engaging in a deceptive trade practice. The International Star Registry (ISR) faces maximum fines of $3,500 or more.

"Consumers whose gifts have them reaching for the stars must remember to keep their feet on the ground," said Commissioner Polonetsky. "Star-naming companies fool consumers into thinking that they can `become' a star by attaching their name to one, but in reality, the star names are nothing more than a listing in the company's own book."

"There are certain commercial and some nonprofit organizations that may offer a service to "register" a star in someone's name, generally for a fee, but these are neither sanctioned by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) nor used by professional astronomers," said Professor Helene Dickel, Chairperson of the IAU Task Group on Designations.

ISR charges $50-$100 for "new" star names which are listed in their own book entitled "Your Place in the Cosmos." Consumers who buy star names also receive a certificate declaring the "official" name of the star. "Wishing upon their `own' star can't change the fact that consumers are getting nothing more than a piece of paper in a frame," said Commissioner Polonetsky. "Other than a sidewalk in Hollywood, consumers who want their own star are better off saving their money by walking into Central Park, pointing to the sky and naming it themselves."

A DCA investigation found that while the company's advertisement implies that its star-naming registry is "official," their salespeople admitted that "NASA and astronomers are always going to continue to use a series of telescopic coordinate numbers" when questioned by DCA undercover inspectors.

Chapter 5 of Title 20 of the New York City Administrative Code prohibits false or misleading representations of a product's approval, status, or affiliation.

# # #

[ Return to FAQ about Astronomy ]