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Senator Barbara Mikulski To Have Supernova Named After Her

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—When it looked like NASA was about to pull the plug on the Hubble Space Telescope, it was Senator Barbara Mikulski who helped keep it alive. That saved hundreds of Maryland jobs.

Alex DeMetrick reports it's now brought Mikulski an honor no one else has on Capitol Hill.

It wasn't just any flesh being pressed. At the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, a standing room crowd honored Senator Mikulski for her support of Hubble when NASA was poised to let the telescope go dark.

Mikulski spearheaded a final shuttle mission to upgrade the telescope, and keep 500 Marylanders on the job.

"No better tribute we could make than to name this supernova in her honor," said Dr. Adam Riess, Nobel Laureate.

Supernova Mikulski is a star that exploded 7 billion light years away, and whose light was just captured by Hubble this past winter.

"When I was growing up in East Baltimore, of course I wanted to be a star.  But I didn't know I'd grow up to be a supernova," Mikulski said.

It wasn't the only honor bestowed. The institute also named its enormous collection of data after Mikulski. It's not just from the Hubble, but information collected by all space telescopes in orbit now and the future available over the Internet to researchers worldwide.

"They're not just stored, not just kept in dusty shelves, but explored and new discoveries are made every day," said Dr. Matt Mountain, Space Telescope Institute director.

"I'm deeply, deeply touched today.  I'm thrilled and I'm honored," Mikulski said.

If Mikulski is grateful for the honors, the people who work here are no less grateful she saved the Hubble and their jobs.

"Without her, Hubble wouldn't be here.  It really is a fantastic honor having her work so hard for us," said Anton Koekemoer, Space Telescope Institute.

And keep the window open for new discoveries.

Besides the mountain of data still to be analyzed, the Space Telescope Science Institute has been selected to work with Hubble's eventual replacement, the James Webb Telescope.

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