Still Waters: A ‘forever stamp’ to hold on to

I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about a postage stamp before and not this excited about the official release of anything since the Sand Dunes quarter.

The U.S. Postal Service this week released its newest stamp, the Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever Stamp, which at first glance looks like a round black dot, but at the literal touch of the finger transforms into the image of the moon.

How cool is that? Or more appropriately, how hot is that?

The first of its kind, the stamp uses thermochromic ink to reveal a second image underneath the first. The body heat of a thumb or fingers on the eclipse reveals the underlying image of the moon. The image reverts back when it cools.

Way to go Antonio Alcalá, the art director who designed the stamp! And thanks to retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak who provided the photograph for the stamp. Espenak knows a thing or two about solar eclipses, having viewed 27 of them. The photo on the stamp is from a total solar eclipse on March 29, 2006, in Libya.

Espenak describes a solar eclipse as “simply the most beautiful, stunning and awe-inspiring astronomical event you can see with the naked eye.”

A total eclipse of the sun is when the moon completely blocks the sun from view, the only time we can look at the sun safely, if only for a brief time.

The upcoming event that prompted this special stamp is the solar eclipse that will occur on August 21 in the U.S., the first time in this country (at least on the mainland) we have had the opportunity to view this event since 1979. The eclipse will be seen across the entire country, and there’s a map on the back of the stamp sheet that shows where the eclipse will be visible at what locations.

The 70-mile-wide shadow path of the eclipse will cross the country, appearing first on the morning of August 21 in Oregon, passing through portions of 14 states and exiting off the coast of South Carolina 90 minutes later. Although we will all be able to see something during that time, the states where the shadow will be passing through at least a portion of the state are Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming. How about a trip to Nashville, Charleston, Idaho Falls, Salem, Columbia, Grand Island or Casper? Those would be great spots to view the eclipse.

NASA has gone completely “lunar” over the eclipse. On their web site they have everything from an eclipse activity guide and maps to bookmarks and posters. There’s even an eclipse folder to hold all your eclipse materials.

If you need something to party about in August besides the children going back to school, you can plan an Eclipse Party. NASA has a downloadable Eclipse Party flyer for starters. Beyond that, the moon’s the limit.

Keep in mind that August 21 is a Monday, so I’m not sure how much partying can be scheduled on a work day.

Eclipse 2017 is already on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Instagram, Flickr and Snapchat.

And NASA’s web site has a clock ticking down to “first contact” in Oregon (you’d think aliens were coming or something), which was 8 weeks, 3 days, 7 hours and 10 minutes when I was writing the column … and counting.

I don’t plan on hosting an eclipse party, but I certainly want to buy a postage stamp or two. I shudder to think what it might have cost to produce such a unique stamp and doubt 49-cents a pop is going to pay for it (maybe if U.S.P.S. sells enough “Press Sheet with Die-cut” for $62.72), but I do think the Postal Service will sell a lot of this one. (The Alamosa post office was sold out on Thursday, with more on the way.)

It’s just too fun to play with.