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Stars Cannot Buy Stars
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One of China's most reputed observatories has shattered one celebrity's dream to have an asteroid named after them.

Chief of the Purple Mountain Observatory, Yan Jun, said on Monday that the celebrity tried to offer the observatory millions of yuan to have an asteroid named after them, but that the offer had been firmly rejected. He admitted that the celebrity does enjoy big fame in China. But he wouldn't disclose the bidder's name.

Beijing Morning Post quoted Professor Yan as saying that commercial naming desecrates scientific research, and that there is no precedent in the world. My observatory will not be the first, he said.

There are a couple of ways to name asteroids. And naming them after people is the most common way of recognising human achievements - in honor of their contribution to the community. For instance, asteroids have been named after Chinese American Nobel laureates of physics Chen Ning Yang and Lee Tsung-Dao respectively.

But the honor of being named after an asteroid is never sold to any individual or organization. The naming of any asteroid must ultimately be approved by the International Astronomical Union's Committee for Small Body Nomenclature, which has its own tradition of giving the privilege to time-honored personalities, especially statesmen and military strategists. 

(CRI.cn March 14, 2007)


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