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Postal Service marks solar eclipse with stamp that changes with heat from finger


US Postal Service

John Burger - published on 05/01/17

USPS uses "thermochromic" ink for first time.

Struggling at a time when more people write emails than drop letters in the mailbox, or pay their bills online instead of licking a stamp to send in the check, the United States Postal Service has been trying all sorts of ways to keep the postage stamp alive. The latest innovation is a first-of-its-kind stamp that changes when you touch it.

The Postal Service announced the upcoming issue of its Total Solar Eclipse Forever stamp, which commemorates the August 21 eclipse. The stamp transforms into an image of the Moon from the heat of a finger.

“Tens of millions of people in the United States hope to view this rare event, which has not been seen on the U.S. mainland since 1979,” The USPS says in a press release. “The eclipse will travel a narrow path across the entire country for the first time since 1918. The path will run west to east from Oregon to South Carolina and will include portions of 14 states.”

The Total Eclipse Stamp will be unveiled on June 20 at the Art Museum of the University of Wyoming in Laramie. That’s the date of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice, and the university is inviting the public to arrive at 11:30 a.m. to witness a unique architectural feature where a single beam of sunlight shines on a silver dollar embedded in the floor, which occurs at noon on the summer solstice in the UW Art Museum’s Rotunda Gallery.

On the new stamp itself is a photograph taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak that shows a total solar eclipse seen from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006. Using thermochromic ink, the Total 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.

The back of the stamp pane provides a map of the August 21 eclipse path and times it may appear in some locations. Visit NASA’s website to view detailed maps of the eclipse’s path.

Art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, Virginia, designed the stamp.

Thermochromic inks are vulnerable to UV light and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to preserve this special effect, the Postal Service points out.

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