Now, Wishing upon a star gets personal

Published: December 22, 1989     Author: Eric Zorn  Chicago Tribune

Tribune International Star Registry Article for website

I’m not saying they were and I’m not saying they weren’t but the three wise men just might have been following star named Humpy. 

It’s up there in the area of the constellation Orion and not usually visible to the naked eye but maybe it had one brilliant evening some 2,000 years ago. You never know.  

Of course they didn’t call it Humpy in those days in fact it was just an anonymous pinpoint in the dim reaches of the night sky until couple of weeks ago when Lisabeth Beatty of Boston christened it through International Star Registry of suburban Northfield. She chose Humpy in order to honor her father Douglas Humpy Beatty 54, an aeronautical engineer whose nickname is sort of family joke. He will learn of his new and somewhat embarrassing place in the immortal history of the cosmos at Christmas this year when Lisabeth will give him handsome certificate telling him all he needs to know about Humpy the star right ascension 5 hours 56 minutes 3.01 seconds 10 degrees 10 minutes 39.84 seconds magnitude 10.4, if you’re keeping score.  

It will be an honor to be sure but an honor Humpy the man will share with some 30,000 others this holiday season including Jack and Joan Alexander, Roger Wilkerson, Stephen Alvarado, Stormin’ Norman Andress, Rose Teeter, Arnold Friedman, and the entire Bennet family of Portland Ore which will twinkle into eternity in the gaseous incarnation of The Bennet Star in the constellation Sagittarius Mister Boffo cartoon posted on door in the offices of International Star Registry (ISR) shows claw-footed alien with podlike antennas on his head delivering a report to a council of seven white-robed alien elders “Because of promotional deal on Earth,” he is saying, “as of next Tuesday the star planet Ventron II will be known as Freddy Bigelow.”  

Perhaps no one finds this more amusing than ISR owner Phyllis Mosele She has so far sold 350,000 points of light, celestial Pet Rocks, to starstruck public and she hasn’t even begun to make dent in the actual inventory up there. “It’s a fun thing,” she said, “The ultimate ego trip; Bigger than any diamond you could give. It says ‘I love you better than anything in this world.’” The Registry was founded on lark in 1979 by Ivor Downie of Toronto. Mosele, a Northfield homemaker liked the idea so much she bought an American franchise then took over the whole operation after Downie’s death.  

Party-poopers in the astronomical community have pained themselves from time to time to point out that ISR names are not sanctioned by the International Astronomical Union. This, sad to tell, means that Carl Sagan is unlikely to show up on TV discussing the discovery of new supernova right between Daddy Bob and the Tim Collins Boom Boom Star, or radio signs of intelligent life detected emanating from the vicinity of Agatha O’Donnell. We just want to caution people that the name isn’t official they don’t own the star, and they won’t be able to see it said Adler Planetarium Associate Astronomer April Whitt. 

 Other than that she added personally thinks it’s cute idea. In real astronomy stars are known by numbers that relate to their position in the sky. Only the brightest 100 or so such as Sirius, Polaris, Vega, and Betelgeuse, have informal names in common use.  

Converting to the ISR system would be cumbersome if for no other reason than that it has at least seven different stars named after pop crooner Barry Manilow.  

Most of the year ISR employees stockpile stars. A company computer reads negative plates of photographs taken with high powered telescopes – on which even tiny sections of sky look as though they have been sprayed by fine mist of ink – and spits out coordinates for yet unnamed and very, very, faint and distant stars.  

These stars do not appear on Existing charts, so employees dot them in one new speck per chart for the benefit of each potential namesake. These charts are then stored by constellation on shelves in ISR’s spartan one story headquarters just west of the Edens Expressway. 

The company, which shares office space with John Mosele’s sewer contracting business, sells little more than 1,000 stars month from January until the middle of November. Then the Christmas rush begins and some 700 to 800 gift givers a day respond to ISR’s nationwide radio advertising campaign. It’s $40 for the star, the pretty certificate, and the chart with the star circled in red. It’s another 40 for the optional frame for the certificate and still another 40 for the vanity directory Your Place in the Cosmos. The directories are warehoused at the Library of Congress outside of Washington fact that ISR used to advertise until library officials enjoined them from doing so several years ago according to library spokesman Craig D’Ooge.  

Emerging Woman, The Love Bug, Blockbuster, Nanette Fabray, Mimi and Bump’s Pleasure, Planet Freddie’s Wishing Star, and the Star of Goldberg are now among those semiofficially installed along with Rex Johnston’s Slice of Heaven, Swanson’s Immortal Light, the Barry Manilows, and an honorary star that bears a Latin name that translates “Mother who loves sheep.”  

And yet here’s the beauty of this whole enterprise, billions of stars remain unnamed, orphaned, sad, lonely, and unexploited. Lisa Beth Beatty can, if she wants, wait several years to name a star “Bunnies” after her mother and sleep soundly knowing she will still be able to have her choice of constellations. Her father meanwhile can ponder the possibility that biblical scholars should update Matthew 2:10 to read “When they saw Humpy they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Probably not. Sure, okay. But what good are the stars if we cannot look to them and imagine. 

Phyllis Mosele’s International Star Registry in Northfield is in the midst of the busiest time of the year for naming celestial objects 

Read more here: Chicago Tribune 

Tribune photo by Mario Petitti BETA (/faq) 

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