A star John Major never named

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The Independent Online
It is a tale of a distant sun and the terrestrial one: yesterday the Sun said that on the instigation of a constituent, John Major had spent pounds 55 of his own to name a star for the children massacred in Dunblane, as "a comfort to the people of Dunblane in the years to come".

A touching story, except that John Major didn't spend any money and didn't get the star named. That was the work of Toni Coventry, 22, of Islington (not Huntingdon), who had the idea herself in March, and paid the registration fee to the International Star Registry (ISR), which duly renamed star H53165-535 in the constellation Cygnus the "Star of Dunblane".

Ms Coventry received the certificate from the ISR on 13 March and sent it to Dunblane primary school, where it has been framed and hung. She received a letter of thanks in return.

Unsurprisingly, Ms Coventry was not inconsiderably annoyed yesterday that John Major, or his publicity machine in Wapping, appeared to be basking in the reflected glow of approval. "I feel a bit angry because it was me that first bought it," she said. "I didn't want publicity for it, but I have had to let everybody know now that it wasn't him."

The Sun's story was sparked off by a letter from Mr Major to a constituent, Geoffrey Bye, who had suggested the naming idea to him. In the letter of 21 August, Mr Major said: "As you can imagine, this was not an entirely straight forward matter to pursue. However, I am delighted to be able to tell you that a star has now been named 'Star of Dunblane' and the School has been sent a certificate of registration with a large astronomical chart pin-pointing its exact location."

Downing Street insisted that the attribution of the purchase to Mr Major was the result of a mix-up between departments.

Astronomers meanwhile were annoyed at the apparent legitimisation of ISR, which itself says that the naming service it offers has no official basis and is "primarily intended as a novelty gift service".

The official naming organisation, the International Astronomical Union, hardly ever puts a person's name to a star. But when it does, the naming process is free.

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