The U.S. Postal Service’s timing couldn’t be better to release the first stamps using thermochromic ink, which changes image when exposed to the heat of a finger.
Jed Tyler, a postal supervisor in Modesto, said when he first tested the stamps – they transform from a solar eclipse image to one of the moon – his fingers were cold. But given the heat wave the area is experiencing, chilly hands are one thing most Modestans won’t be complaining about. And Tyler said that once he warmed his hands a bit, the stamps worked fine.
Tuesday’s first-of-its-kind release of an image-changing Forever stamp commemorates the upcoming Aug. 21 eclipse.
A pane of 16 Forever stamps is available post offices in Modesto and nationwide and may be ordered at USPS.com for delivery.
Modesto Postmaster Jennifer Gowans said Monday that local post offices have a good supply of the stamps and had not yet received many inquiries. Stamp collecting isn’t as popular as it used to be, she said, and a lot of people who collect simply buy online.
In a news release, USPS Chief Marketing Officer Jim Cochrane said, “With the release of these amazing stamps using thermochromic ink, we’ve provided an opportunity for people to experience their own personal solar eclipse every time they touch the stamps. As evidenced by this stamp and other amazing innovations, the Postal Service is enabling a new generation to bridge the gap and tighten the connection between physical mail and the digital world.”
According to NASA, all of North America will be able to see the eclipse of the sun. What’s called the path of totality, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun's tenuous atmosphere, the corona, will stretch from Salem, Ore., Charleston, S.C. Observers outside the path will see a partial solar eclipse, NASA says.
The path of totality, about 70 miles wide, will traverse the country diagonally, appearing in Oregon at midmorning and finishing some 2,500 miles east and 90 minutes later off the coast of South Carolina in midafternoon Eastern time, passing through portions of 14 states, according to the Postal Service.
The stamp’s image is a photograph taken by retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak of Portal, Ariz., who is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on total solar eclipses, with 27 under his belt, the Postal Service says. The photograph shows a total solar eclipse seen from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006. Using the body heat of your thumb or fingers and rubbing the eclipse image will reveal an underlying image of the Moon. The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.
Thermochromic inks are vulnerable to ultraviolet light and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to preserve the special effect. To help ensure longevity, the Postal Service is selling a special envelope to hold and protect the stamp pane.
To learn more on solar eclipse safety, educational and science information, go to eclipse2017.nasa.gov. NASA TV and NASA.gov will broadcast a live panel discussion and news conference starting at 1 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday – the first day of summer – from the Newseum in Washington, DC.