LARAMIE – With the nationwide total solar eclipse now just 61 days away, this very special event will be commemorated in a U.S. postage stamp issued Tuesday in Wyoming, one of the states included in the 100 percent pathway of the eclipse on August 21.
But this is no ordinary postage stamp by any means. Designed by art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, Va., the stamp will feature a photo taken by retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak of Portal, Ariz. Espenak 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. He began collecting eclipse stamps after witnessing his first as a teenager.
In a press release issued by the Postal Service, Espenak said, “I’m honored to have my images on this unique stamp.” “A total eclipse of the Sun is simply the most beautiful, stunning and awe-inspiring astronomical event you can see with the naked eye.”
The most intriguing feature of the stamp will be its ability to change images. The stamp will be printed in thermochromic ink, which allows the image to change when the heat of a thumb or fingers touches the surface. The underlying image revealed is that of the moon. The initial image of the sun returns once the surface is allowed to cool again.
This is the first-ever application of thermochromic ink in the making of a postage stamp. The stamps will be issued as a Forever Stamp in a pane of six. Because the special ink is vulnerable to direct sunlight, a special envelope will be available from the Postal Service for a nominal fee for collectors that want to preserve the longevity of the stamps.
The stamp was unveiled Tuesday during a public ceremony in the University of Wyoming Art Museum.
It will be available for purchase beginning Tuesday nationwide and may also be ordered from the Postal Service online.
On August 21, the first solar total solar eclipse to cover a path across the entire United States since 1918 will occur, passing through portions of 14 states. 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).
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, completely blocking the solar disk from view, casting a shadow on earth. Falling within the path of totality, Wyoming cities and towns from Jackson to Casper and southeast to Guernsey and Torrington and between are gearing up for an influx of visitors from not only the United States but many other countries as well. Numbers expected have been predicted to be anywhere between 50,000 up to 200,000 on the day of the eclipse.