Name A Star in Memory
Please read carefully - There are numerous companies out there that will "certify" that a star has been named at your request (after your check has cleared, of course). But please be aware. Only the International Astronomical Union officially names stars and except for some older recognized stars, nearly all of the millions of stars are no longer named, but numbered. Here is their disclaimer.
If, however, you would like to do this, and the emotional gesture is more important to you than the "official" recognition, there are companies listed on the internet that will send you an official looking certification naming your star - for a fee. We do not endorse any of these sites, and would suggest if this is something you are considering, please read on.
Any company can name any star whatever you want but it will mean nothing except to you and that company. Naming stars is another money making scheme to feed on the emotions of decent people. Therefore, if your family would like to name a star in the memory of a lost one, there is regretfully nothing "official" you can do. But that is no reason to stop you!!
What we hope to show you is how to identify a star, and be able to locate it on any cloudless night. It potentially could bring solace to those in grief, both as a something the family can do themselves - or a friend of the family can do as a memory gift.
This may not seem to be too difficult, considering the millions you have to choose from. But we have a few suggestions you may want to consider. Picking a star may be easy tonight, but locating the same star next month may be tough. Secondly, the brighter stars already have official names. But the brighter star can be a good guide to find the less prominent and numbered stars. We suggest finding a star in, or near, a constellation. They are easier to find (at least for those of us who don't make our living as astronomers). One common practice is to locate the constellation named after a birth sign.
If you aren't into horoscopes and don't know the zodiac sign, here is a page that will give you the zodiac sign by date and more information than you will want to know about each (Link here)
After you have determined the zodiac, locate the matching constellation on this page with a photo of what it looks like. (Link here)
Now to find it, you'll need a star map. No need to buy one of the thousands for sale. They are freely available for download on the internet in pdf, which you can then print to take outside to star gaze with you. (Skymaps) and a page on how to use it (FAQ). Here are two online that I personally like - identify your latitude/longitude (it will help) and it will tell you everything you'll see in the sky tonight including stars, satellites, etc.(Tonight's Sky Tracker) and (Your Sky). Here is a site that will help you find your latitude/longitude (AARL)
There are also free programs you can download onto your hard drive. The above sky maps will identify the brighter and named stars, which will help you find the smaller ones you may want yo use, but these programs will identify some of the smaller ones also. This little program is only 396kb in size but packs a ton of information including the official names to over 1 million stars (right click and save zip file ). Knowing your latitude and longitude makes star gazing much easier. Here is an online source to help you determine what your are (AARL).
After picking your star, you may want to see if you can locate a photo of your star online. (Simbad).
Other sites that may prove helpful - Sky and Telescope
If you want to make an official looking certificate and don't want to send some stranger $75 to make one, there are numerous programs available to print your own. Make it however you want and then place it in an inexpensive frame.
Naming a star can potentially bring comfort to those in grief and make a permanent memorial that can be passed on from generation to generation.