The United States Postal Service (USPS) is granting priority status to the work of the James Webb Space Telescope.
As announced on Monday (Oct. 23), the USPS plans to release two 2024 Priority Mail postage stamps, each featuring a cosmic image captured by the observatory.
"Stamps are miniature works of art and often tell a story that highlights our American culture, our people or an important point in our history," said Lisa Bobb-Semple, acting Stamp Services director for the USPS, in a statement. "Stamps also allow us to show what's important to us as we carefully select which stamp adorns our mailpieces."
"The 2024 stamps were designed to offer the American public a broad array of choices for those looking to collect stamps or send a special message," Bobb-Semple said.
The new James Webb Space Telescope stamps reproduce two of the observatory's most popular images, including one of the first taken after Webb was deployed almost two years ago.
The 2024 $9.65 Priority Mail stamp showcases Webb's infrared view of the Eagle Nebula, offering an alternate look at one of the Hubble Space Telescope's most iconic images. Webb's version of the "Pillars of Creation" reveals a landscape otherwise invisible to the human eye.
"By assigning color to various wavelengths ... red areas toward the end of the pillars show burgeoning stars ejecting raw materials as they form, while relatively small red orbs scattered throughout the image show newly born stars," reads the postal service's description of the upcoming issue.
"Cosmic Cliffs," one of Webb's first targets in the Carina Nebula, adorns the 2024 $28.75 Priority Mail Express stamp.
"Red and yellow flares scattered throughout the cliffs show developing and newly born stars. The orange-and-brown clouds in the lower third of the image are swirls of dust and gas," the stamp's description reads. "Additional stars, in our Milky Way and in distant galaxies, appear in the blue and black regions above and beyond the nebula."
Greg Breeding, a USPS art director, designed both stamps using images provided by NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which manages Webb's science activities.
Release dates for the two Webb stamps have yet to be announced. Their designs were unveiled on Monday alongside two dozen other planned issues ranging in theme from the holidays to U.S. history to animals. Additional 2024 stamp themes will be revealed in the weeks and months ahead, according to the USPS.
The 2024 Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express stamps mark the second time that the USPS has highlighted the James Webb Space Telescope on postage. In 2022, the postal service released a Forever denomination stamp featuring a rendering of what the Webb looked like after it entered service in deep space.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.