How to pay for Astronomy

Name A Star Gift Box Keen readers may remember me uncovering the Great Armenian Star Naming Rip Off. Now Waterstones are at it too. Today in Princes Street, I was depressed to find them selling “name a star” gift sets for £20. You also can get this wondrous product direct from Gift Republic. Inside you find the co-ordinates of your star. You invent a name and register this, and periodically Gift Republic submit their information to the British Library. Coo. Well that sounds important.

Interestingly, the box I saw in Waterstones had some tiny small print which does not appear on the web site. This said, roughly “..this will not necessarily be recognised by any official scientific organisation… this is a novelty gift and should be taken as such.” This made me much more relaxed. If anybody is dumb enough to read that and still cough up twenty quid then its their own fault.

Why not start up our own, and covenant all the profits to the Gemini Observatory ? We could do a much better job. There could be a premium rate for special objects like cataclysmic variables. People could pay a monthly fee to get gamma ray burst alerts within 10 degrees of their star. There could be a discount rate for a thousand objects at a time. Or maybe we charge £5000 for a complete open cluster. We could guarantee annotations in the SuperCosmos Science Archive.

Does this count as Knowledge Exchange ?

5 Responses to How to pay for Astronomy

  1. I’ve always been keen on Gamma Ray Burst Crystals. You strap a big bit of quartz at the focus of your telescope and point it at a GBR. Then you sell it as a “Crystal infused by light from a distant Gamma Ray Burst, the most energetic phenomenon in the Universe”. After all your not even lying, quantum mechanically you’ve probably going to have a couple of photons bouncing around in there for ages.

    The crystal nuts would go, well, nuts for those. Sell ’em for a couple of thousand dollars a pop, artificially keep the supply low… hmm, it could almost be the diamond cartels.

  2. John Taylor says:

    Bet you’re wishing you hadn’t thrown out all those plates now….time to resurrect Bob’s idea of making coasters from them?

  3. Nick Cross says:

    If you are selling an open cluster for £5000, how much could you get for a whole galaxy. And they make much prettier pictures too. Here we have all the software to find good examples, cut out pretty pictures, and we could easily set up a script to make some nice blurb about each one and put it into a certificate. Not only that, we can write on the back of the box that this will be recognised by professional astronomers (just not all of them).

    As you say, the funding councils and universities are always pushing for commercial applications. The next steps will be the horoscope Java applications for Astrogrid and labelling every unknown transient object as UFOs. NASA seems to have been doing that with Mars rocks recently…

  4. MikeW says:

    You could auction the largest object in the Universe (eg but there are other contenders) on e-Bay and maybe fund the ATC for several years …

  5. Stuart says:

    When I go to the dark side I plan to set up a Radio Astrology hotline at 75p/min just like Jonathan Cainer. After all, it is a part of the market that has no competition and the astrology folks seem happy to pay through the nose for made up stuff. I can imagine talking about glitches in the Crab pulsar affecting Taureans.

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