Thanks for the advice mike and atagert, I'll have to experiment with those techniques and see what comes of it. I don't really like using the Blender stars only because as the camera is moving around they are too "sparkly". I guess it's supposed to look like twinkling, but really the stars just seem to appear and disappear randomly and I don't like the effect as much. This is very visible in atagerts latest render, if you just look off into space, though honestly nobody in their right mind would be focusing off into space when all the action is on the earth and text
. Anyway, the effect isn't "distracting" by any means, it just wasn't my ideal solution.
I do like the idea of adding beams to the halo, though every time I tried to get a similar effect I wasn't pleased with the result. Your latest render looks better than the attempts that I made atagert, so at least you're getting there.
As far as the white on gold text I simply had to give up. Nothing that I did would enable both meshes to get warped the same and still line up all the way around the globe. If someone gets a viable solution to creating this text I'm sure many people here would be thrilled. I think I may even know how to do it, but I would need to be able to combine meshes into a single mesh.
If anyone knows if that last bit is possible (ie: draw 2 meshes then do something such that they become a single mesh) please let me know and I'll try to work out the text problem.