The sun has risen on a new set of postage stamps.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) on Friday (June 18) released "Sun Science," a collection of 10 stamps celebrating the study of heliophysics using the imagery from a NASA probe.
"The U.S. Postal Service illuminates the light and warmth of our nearest star by highlighting these stunning images of the Sun on stamps," the USPS wrote, describing the new Forever-denomination stamps. "These 10 images come from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in February 2010 to keep a constant watch on the Sun."
A ceremony scheduled for Friday morning at the main post office in Greenbelt, Maryland, was set to mark the official first day of issue for the Sun Science stamps. Thomas Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the USPS and Dennis Andrucyk, director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center were scheduled to preside over the event.
Alex Young, associate director for science in NASA's heliophysics science division and Yaireska Collado-Vega, director of the Moon to Mars space weather analysis office at the Goddard Space Flight Center were also scheduled to deliver remarks.
(The ceremony was relocated from the Goddard Space Flight Center due to observance of the Juneteenth federal holiday and the NASA facility being closed.)
Designed by USPS art director Antonio Alcalá, each of the 10 stamps feature a single image of the sun set against a black background. Each depicts the sun in bold colors, which are based on the different wavelengths that reveal or highlight specific features of its activity. The images display common events on the sun, such as solar flares, sunspots and coronal loops.
"The Sun is the only star that humans are able to observe in great detail, making it a vital source of information about the universe," the USPS explains on its website. "The Solar Dynamics Observatory lets us see the sun in wavelengths of ultraviolet light that would otherwise be invisible to our eyes. Each black-and-white image is colorized to the bright hues seen here."
The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was NASA's first mission dedicated to its "Living With a Star" program, which focuses on increasing our understanding of the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. Launched into an inclined geosynchronous orbit in 2010, SDO has been able to make continuous observations of the sun while transmitting its data to a dedicated ground station in New Mexico.
The 15-foot by 6.5-foot (4.5 by 2-meter) spacecraft is outfitted with equipment and instruments to capture images of the sun in visible, ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet light. SDO has gathered hundreds of millions of images during its more than a decade-long tenure, helping scientists to learn about how our star works and how its constantly churning magnetic fields produce the solar activity that we see.
The Sun Science stamps are now available at U.S. post offices nationwide and through the USPS website. The stamps are sold in panes of 20, with two of each design on each sheet.
The online shop also has several related products aimed at stamp collectors and enthusiasts.
Two different "first day cover" sets are available (a "cover" is a stamped envelope postmarked for a significant date; a "first day cover" is a cover postmarked for the day the stamp affixed to the envelope was issued). One set features a black ink pictorial postmark, which is styled after solar radiation. The second set features a digital color postmark, which "evokes two vivid and fiery suns, surrounded by floating hoops that suggest our nearest star's outline," according to the USPS.
Both sets include 10 first day covers, each dated for June 18, 2021 and Greenbelt, Maryland. They retail for $9.90 and $17, respectively.
Also offered for sale is a set of the 10 "Sun Science" postage stamps mounted with an enlargement of one of the stamps showing sunspots. The 13-inch by 16-inch (33 by 41 cm) presentation is showcased in a black frame and sells for $40.
In total, the USPS printed 30 million of the "Sun Science" postage stamps with a foil finish. The Forever stamps are priced at $11 per sheet.
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