"One of the world's largest astronomy archives, containing a treasure trove of information about myriad stars, planets, and galaxies, has been named in honor of the United States Senator from Maryland, Barbara Mikulski. ... In addition, an exploding star that the Hubble Space Telescope spotted on Jan. 25, 2012, has been named Supernova Mikulski by Nobel Laureate Adam Riess and the supernova search team with which he is currently working. The supernova, which lies 7.4 billion light-years away, is the titanic detonation of a star more than eight times our Sun's mass."
Keith's note: This has to be one of the most shameless acts of kissing up to a congressional benefactor in recent years. Anything that Sen. Mikuski did in her job involved taxpayer dollars and she often favored projects in her own state at the expense of equally meritorious projects located in other states. I wonder if the STScI folks bothered to tell Sen. Mikulski that they can't actually name stars after anyone. Under the archaic way that astronomers name objects and features, only the IAU can name things. Also, it would seem, according to IAU's rules, that there is no process for naming a supernova after a person i.e. "Supernovae are named for their year of occurrance and an uppercase letter, e.g., "SN 1987A". If the alphabet is exhausted, double lower case naming is used: [Year] aa .. az, ba .. bz, etc; e.g., "SN 1997bs"." And if IAU does allow this name to become official they too become a party to this blatant act of political payback and simply undermine what the credibility that their naming rules have.
"The Space Telescope Science Institute's decision to name its database for Senator Mikulski is an honor very much deserved. She is a tremendous advocate and supporter for science, NASA and the astrophysics community."
Keith's update: (Sigh) now NASA itself has gotten in on the official political pandering as well. Maybe we should name JSC's Mission Control Center the "Kay Bailey Hutchison Mission Control Center" and the VAB the "Bill Nelson Big Rocket Barn". I wonder how many hours were charged at NASA and STScI to concocting and celebrating this whole activity. I guess there is a side benefit to this. The next time JWST goes over budget Sen. Mikulski is certain to support another infusion of cash.