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Postal Service’s New Eclipse Stamp to be Launched at UW

April 27, 2017
stamps with a dark eclipse and a bright moon
These images show the new stamp scheduled for launch June 20 at the University of Wyoming. The stamp will show a total solar eclipse that transforms into an image of the moon from the heat of a finger. (U.S. Postal Service)

The U.S. Postal Service has chosen the University of Wyoming as the site to launch a first-of-its-kind stamp that changes when you touch it. The stamp will show a total solar eclipse that transforms into an image of the moon from the heat of a finger.

The Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever stamp will be issued June 20, the day before the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The stamp will commemorate the total solar eclipse that will occur Aug. 21, when tens of millions of people in the United States -- including Wyoming -- hope to view a total eclipse of the sun.

The 1:30 p.m. First-Day-of-Issue ceremony will take place at the UW Art Museum in conjunction with is annual summer solstice celebration. Visitors are encouraged to arrive at 11:30 a.m. to watch a beam of sunlight move across the floor, hitting an embedded silver dollar in the center of the Rotunda Gallery at noon, and to look at the sun through special telescopes.

“We are delighted that the Postal Service has selected the University of Wyoming Art Museum for the launch of this very special, new stamp," Art Museum Director Susan Moldenhauer says. "It will be an event to celebrate and learn about the sun and kick off the festivities for the summer of the eclipse in Wyoming."

The stamp image is a photograph taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak, aka “Mr. Eclipse,” of Portal, Ariz., that shows a total solar eclipse seen from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006. Art director Antonio Alcalá, of Alexandria, Va., designed the stamp.

In the first U.S. stamp application of thermochromic ink, the solar eclipse stamp 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. Espenak also took the photograph of the full moon. The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.

A total eclipse of the sun occurs when the moon completely blocks the visible solar disk from view, casting a shadow on Earth. The 70-mile-wide shadow path of the eclipse, known as the “path of totality,” will traverse the country diagonally, appearing first in Oregon (mid-morning local time) and exiting some 2,500 miles east and 90 minutes later off the coast of South Carolina (mid-afternoon local time). 

The eclipse will hit the Cowboy State starting at about 11:30 a.m. Aug. 21, starting in Jackson and Grand Teton National Park. The shadow will then cross Pavillion (at 11:38 a.m.), and Shoshoni and Riverton (at 11:39 a.m.) for about 2:23 before landing squarely on the city of Casper. The centerline will pass right over the intersection of Highway 220 and South Poplar Street in Casper at 11:42 a.m., and provide viewers there with 2:26 in totality. Douglas, Glendo, Thermopolis, Lusk and Torrington are other larger Wyoming towns that will experience a total eclipse.

A total solar eclipse provides 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 Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp, which is always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price. The back of the stamp pane provides a map of the Aug. 21 eclipse path and times it may appear in some locations.

UW and the Eclipse

stamp with map of US
The back of the Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever stamp shows the Aug. 21 eclipse’s pathway across the United States. (U.S. Postal Service)

The Postal Service stamp launch is just one of several UW events related to the solar eclipse.

Faculty members from the Department of Physics and Astronomy will provide interpretive eclipse experiences at four locations along the full-eclipse path Aug. 21, beginning in the morning.

The UW eclipse-viewing locations, along with faculty members at each, are: Boysen State Park north of Riverton, Danny Dale; Casper, Michael Pierce; Glendo State Park, Chip Kobulnicky; and Guernsey State Park, Hannah Jang-Condell. The public is invited to these sites, and eclipse-viewing glasses will be available at each.

Pierce also is the Wyoming state coordinator for NASA’s Citizen CATE (Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse) Experiment. Using 61 telescope stations across the country, including nine in Wyoming spaced about 50 miles apart, the project’s goal is to create a continuous 90-minute movie of the solar corona during the total eclipse. The nine portable refracting telescopes will be stationed from Slide Lake, just east of Jackson, to Guernsey Elementary School. High school science teachers and students will man the telescopes and, using a video camera and laptop hooked to each, record the total eclipse at each point. For more on this project, go to www.uwyo.edu/uw/news/2016/07/uw-professor-heads-state-portion-of-nasa-project-to-view-august-2017-eclipse.html.

Additionally, two UW graduate students will combine weather balloons with student participation to provide a closer look at the eclipse. Katie Foster and Phil Bergmaier, both UW doctoral students in atmospheric science, are working with the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium to use weather balloons to track and video record the eclipse.

They will send a weather balloon and its payload -- live-broadcasting cameras, video and tracking systems on board -- up between 60,000 and 100,000 feet in the vicinity of Casper at the time of the eclipse. Dozens of groups from across the United States will launch high-altitude balloons over the path of eclipse totality, capturing live video from onboard cameras as the shadow of the moon passes over the Earth below. These videos will be streamed live over the internet to NASA’s website for millions of people to see. For more on this project, go to www.uwyo.edu/cmst1test/news/2016/08/uw-heads-wyoming-outreach-project-using-weather-balloons-to-record-eclipse.html.

Since January, the Harry C. Vaughan UW Planetarium has hosted a semester-long “Eclipse 2017” series of programs about the event.


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Chad Baldwin

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