The Dark Side of Astronomy: Would Be Namers

We’ve all heard the story, pay a small price and you can name a star that will be filed by a company. The only problem with this is that professional astronomers do not accept these files. Paying a few bucks does not give you naming rights. Don’t forget, if we ever make it to the stars, each of these is a mighty sun that might be more rightfully named by the 7 billion people who will live under its light. Shouldn’t they get to say what their sun will be called?

So it borders on insanity to give a rock star a whole constellation. That’s right, you can read right here that a new constellation has been outlined. It’s in the shape of a lightning bolt but nowhere in this article do they say what the constellation will be called, only that it is a tribute to David Bowie.

Now most people only rarely look up in the night sky. So they can be forgiven for not knowing that Spica is in the constellation Virgo, Sigma Librae is in Libra, Zeta Centauri is in Centaurus, Beta Triangulum Australe is in Triangulum Australe, and Delta Octantis is in Octans. The two SAO stars I’m not sure which constellation they’re in.

The article butchers mention Alpha Virginis which is really Spica and butcher the names of Beta Triangulum, Delta Octantis and misses one of the SAO stars while butchering the name of the other one. I’m only assuming that the featured map is correct.

Anyhow, you can guess that they are taking stars willy nilly from officially recognized constellations. There is an agreed upon 88 official constellations agreed to in 1922 and a few years later every patch of sky was said to be in one of these 88 constellations.

There is no room for more constellations. The sky is filled. Someone just picked out any old stars that might happen to look like a lightning bolt. That is commonly done by people as for say, the Big Dipper. But this is not a constellation (it’s part of the huge constellation Ursa Major), so we call it an asterism.

So there is an unnamed asterism, dedicated to David Bowie somehow.

This article also contains the meaningless, “[the asterism] sits in the vicinity of Mars.” You may be able to find it today, given this description, but Mars moves quickly over constellations and soon will be nowhere near this constellation.

Then there is the BS about the asterism being registered exactly at the time of Bowie’s death. Did the astronomers know that Bowie was dying although it was hidden from his fans? Were they in touch with him on his deathbed so they could know exactly when to register? Or did they lie about it and back date the registration?

Because of all the glaring problems with the article, I expect it is a hoax. But the Guardian still has it up with comments touching on some of the things I have. Bonnie Malkin is supposed to be responsible for this article. What a lousy standard of journalism she has set. I’m surprised the Guardian is so sloppy as to remind one of a gossip magazine.

About Larry Russwurm

Just another ranter on the Internet
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