Today at the University of Wyoming’s Art Museum in Laramie, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will host a first-day-of-issue ceremony for its latest Forever stamp, this in honour of the upcoming solar eclipse.
The “Total Eclipse of the Sun” Forever stamp, which is printed in panes of 16 stamps, features colour-changing ink—a first for a U.S. stamp—that transforms the image of an eclipse into the Moon from the heat of a finger. The release foreshadows the Aug. 21 total eclipse of the sun that is expected to travel diagonally across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. Tens of millions of people in the U.S. are hoping to view this rare event, which has not been seen on the U.S. mainland since 1979. The eclipse will travel a narrow path across the entire country for the first time since 1918.
Jim Cochrane, USPS chief customer and marketing officer, will be joined by NASA and University of Wyoming officials as well as astrophysicist Fred Espenak—also known as Mr. Eclipse.
“With the release of these amazing stamps using thermochromic ink, we’ve provided an opportunity for people to experience their own personal solar eclipse every time they touch the stamps,” said Cochrane. “As evidenced by this stamp and other amazing innovations, the Postal Service is enabling a new generation to bridge the gap and tighten the connection between physical mail and the digital world.”
A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN
A total eclipse of the Sun occurs when the Moon completely blocks the visible solar disk from view, casting a shadow on Earth. The 112-kilometre-wide shadow path of the eclipse, known as the “path of totality,” will traverse the U.S. diagonally, appearing first in Oregon and exiting about 4,025 kilometres east and 90 minutes later off the coast of South Carolina (mid-afternoon local time) passing through portions of 14 states.
A total solar eclipse provides us with the only chance to see the Sun’s corona—its extended outer atmosphere—without specialized instruments. During the total phase of an eclipse the corona appears as a gossamer white halo around the black disk of the Moon, resembling the petals of a flower reaching out into space.
The back of the stamp pane provides a map of the Aug. 21 eclipse path and times it may appear in some locations. Visit NASA’s website to view detailed maps of the eclipse’s path.
In the first U.S. stamp application of thermochromic ink, the Total Eclipse of the Sun stamps will reveal a second image. Using the body heat of your thumb or fingers and rubbing the eclipse image will reveal an underlying image of the Moon. The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.
Thermochromic inks are vulnerable to UV light and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to preserve this special effect. To help with longevity, the USPS is offering a special envelope to hold and protect the stamp pane for a nominal fee.
Art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, Va., designed the stamp.
The stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp, which is always equal in value to the current first-class mail one-ounce price.
The stamp’s image is a photograph taken by Espenak of Portal, Az., who is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on total solar eclipses with 27 under his belt. The photograph shows a total solar eclipse seen from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006.
“I’m honored to have my images on this unique stamp. But more importantly, the stamp will spread the news about America’s great eclipse to many more people than I could ever reach,” said Espenak, who began collecting eclipse stamps after witnessing his first as a teenager. “A total eclipse of the Sun is simply the most beautiful, stunning and awe-inspiring astronomical event you can see with the naked eye—but you’ve got to be in the 70-mile-wide path of totality that runs across the nation from Oregon to South Carolina. So where will you be on August 21?”
NASA Astrophysicist Madhulika “Lika” Guthakurta recommended learning more on solar eclipse safety, educational and science information at eclipse2017.nasa.gov.
“Having witnessed so many total eclipses myself, I know that two minutes inside the moon’s shadow could have a profound impact on the younger generation,” said Guthakurta. “The Sun can be viewed safely with the unaided eye only during the few brief seconds or minutes of a total solar eclipse. Partial eclipses or partial phases of total solar eclipses are never safe to watch without solar eclipse glasses.”
NASA TV and NASA.gov will broadcast a live panel discussion and news conference tomorrow from the Newseum in Washington, D.C.