Barbara Mikulski — Supernova

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted April 8, 2012 at 11:58pm

We already knew Sen. Barbara Mikulski was a star, but not quite this literally.

Astronomers in Baltimore announced last week that they were naming a supernova — an exploding star — discovered in January “Supernova Mikulski” in honor of the Maryland Democrat, who happens to be the longest-serving female lawmaker in Congressional history.

The astronomers found Supernova Mikulski using the Hubble Space Telescope. About 7.4 billion light-years from Earth, it is not visible to the naked eye.

Space researchers have an affinity for Mikulski, which should come as no surprise because she’s the Senate appropriator charged with the NASA budget.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore will also be renamed in Mikulski’s honor. Data collected by both the Hubble and Webb telescopes will be held at the institute.

William Smith, president of the organization that runs the center in Baltimore for NASA, offered effusive praise for Mikulski at Thursday’s dedication ceremony.

“We are in a remarkable period for modern astrophysics research,” Smith said, “and it is fitting that Sen. Mikulski’s persistent championship on behalf of science be permanently recognized by today’s events.”

Mikulski said: “I am proud to be the namesake of the archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is the enduring legacy of Hubble and will allow us to peer even further into the origins of the universe after the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.”