Adopt-A-Star Programs in Museums and Planetariums

Name A Star Live is a unique name-a-star service in that we launch our customers’ star names into space.  When you name a star with us, you are made part of a real space mission!

In fact, there are many star-naming companies.  But did you know that a number of science museums and planetariums have “adopt-a-star” programs as well?

Like Name A Star Live, adopt-a-star programs typically provide customers a star certificate displaying the name of the star, as well as a star chart showing the star’s location within its constellation (area of the night sky).  Some organizations, such as the DuPont Planetarium at the University of South Carolina, will display the names of its customers on kiosks. Other planetariums even display adopted star names on planetarium ceilings.

Adopt-A-Star programs have been particularly popular in Australia and New Zealand.  The Sydney Observatory has a “Name A Star” program that helps fund the observatory’s heritage and collection program.  Perth Observatory, the Australian National University’s Mount Stromlo Observatory, and the Stardome Observatory in Auckland, New Zealand have all used adopt-a-star programs to raise funds for their educational facilities.

In fact, shortly before our 2009 Whetū Flight launch from New Zealand, an astronomer with the Stardome Observatory discussed the popularity of star-naming.  See his comments in the following New Zealand television report about the Whetū Flight:

The adopt-a-star programs are all certainly worthwhile.  But again, Name A Star Live is the only star-naming service that launches your star name into space.  After the launch occurs we provide you a Launch Certificate via the Internet.  Usually you can watch the launch online.   Many of our missions have been flown on rockets carrying student payloads.  This unique space experience is enhanced by our Virtual Planetarium™ space and astronomy software, developed by Rice University and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  And our Ultimate Children’s and Stargazers’ gift sets help children and adults develop a lifelong interest in astronomy!

February’s Stars and Planets

The Moon provides a good guide to finding objects in the night sky.  Here we’ll use the Moon as a ‘landmark’ to help you identify stars and planets in January 2012. Look for the red planet Mars rising over the eastern horizon, next to the Moon on the evening of February 9 (Feb. 10 for those of you in Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan…).  That evening both Mars and the Moon will be in the Name A Star Live constellation Leo.

The Moon and Mars in February 2012
The Moon and Mars rising over the eastern horizon, February 9, 2012.

On the mornings of Feb. 12 and 13 (Feb. 13 and 14 for those of you in Australia, etc.), look for the planet Saturn near the Moon shortly before sunrise.  Both of these celestial objects will be in the Name A Star Live constellation Virgo that morning.

Right after sunset on Feb. 22 (Feb. 23 for those of you in Australia etc.), look for a very thin crescent Moon near the planet Mercury.  Both objects will be very low on the western horizon.  The Moon will be in the Name A Star Live constellation Pisces, and Mercury will be in the adjacent Name A Star Live constellation AquariusVenus will be the very bright object above the Moon.  Like the Moon, Venus will be in Pisces that evening.

On the evening of Feb. 25 (Feb. 26 for those of you in Australia etc.), the thin, crescent Moon will appear next to the planet Venus.  Both objects will be in the Name A Star Live constellation Pisces that night.

The following evening, the Moon will appear next to the solar system’s giant planet Jupiter.  Both will be in the Name A Star Live constellation Aries that night.  You should be able to see Jupiter and up to four of its large moons through any telescope — even through a pair of binoculars. These four large moons move so quickly that if you observe Jupiter’s moons every few hours you’ll see that they change their position in relation to the planet. For example, if you observe Jupiter shortly after sunset you might see one or two of its large moons, but if you observe Jupiter a few hours later you might see all four of its large moons — or vice versa!

On the evening of Feb. 28 (Feb. 29 for those of you in Australia, etc.) look for the Moon next to the Pleiades (a.k.a. “the Seven Sisters“), a beautiful collection of stars in the Name A Star Live constellation Taurus.  People often mistake the Pleiades for “The Little Dipper.”  But the Little Dipper is in another constellation.  Take a look at the Pleiades through a pair of binoculars: They are quite beautiful!

Finally, the following night the Moon appears in the Hyades, a V-shaped group of stars that form the head of the bull in the Name A Star Live constellation Taurus.  The bright red star in the Hyades is called “Aldebaran,” a binary star only 65 light-years from Earth, which is pretty close in astronomical terms.  You should be able to see the two stars in Aldebaran through a good amateur telescope (minimum mirror diameter of 6 inches).

When to go stargazing this month

Moonlight ‘drowns out’ the faint light of many stars and other celestial objects, so the best time to view the stars is when the Moon is not visible. If you’re going to stargaze between sunset and midnight, then the best time to do that in February would be during the February 16-25 time period.

Finding your star in the night sky

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation. You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star. (That’s why we include the SLOOH online telescope experience in our Deluxe, Framed and Ultimate Gift Sets!) But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope. You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software. A planisphere is another useful device.