On August 21, a total solar eclipse will traverse a seventy-mile-wide trajectory across the mainland United States for the first time in nearly a hundred years. To commemorate this event, and in the process shine a light on snail mail, the U.S. Postal Service released its Total Solar Eclipse forever stamp on the first day of summer. USPS officials, along with reps from NASA, which helped design the stamp, held a ceremony on June 20 in Laramie, Wyoming, commemorating the release — and showcasing an area where you'll be able to see the eclipse best.
The new stamp is no traditional stamp; it uses something called thermochromatic ink to feature two images on one stamp. When you rub your finger on the image of the eclipse, a cosmic black orb ringed by the sun's wispy outer atmosphere, or corona, your body heat will cause the ink to react and transform into an image of the moon. "USPS has made a lot of technological innovations in areas like sorting and delivering mail, and now we're bringing those innovations to stamps," explains David Rupert, USPS regional spokesman. "We're pushing the envelope, so to speak, on multiple fronts. This is the first interactive stamp."
As Jim Cochrane, chief customer and marketing officer for the USPS, noted at the ceremony, "We’ve provided an opportunity for people to experience their own personal solar eclipse every time they touch the stamps."
The photographs used on the stamp were taken by retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak, dubbed "Mr. Eclipse" for his passion for following eclipses. Espenak now has 27 total solar eclipses under his belt.
"This eclipse will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can read about it, look up images of it, but there is nothing like experiencing it," notes Rupert. "More than anything, we're hoping this stamp encourages people to go out and see it firsthand."
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Want to see it? A partial eclipse will be visible in this state, but Coloradans won't be far from catching the total solar eclipse. On August 21, they'll just have to travel to a location that falls under the path of totality, and that path happens to include parts of Wyoming, Nebraska and the northeast edge of Kansas. The duration of the eclipse will depend on your location. (Find more information on the path of totality and details about timing on NASA's website.)
The stamp is now available for purchase in panels of sixteen in any USPS store or online. There's a path of the eclipse on the back of the panel as a handy reminder of where you want to be two months from now.