The U.S. Postal Service is hosting the national release of its first-ever heat-sensitive ‘thermochromic’ stamps during a summer solstice event Tuesday at the University of Wyoming Art Museum.
At room temperature, the stamps bear an image of a solar eclipse, but by adding heat — such as by pressing one’s thumb to the stamp — the design reveals an image of the moon.
The image-changing stamps were designed to commemorate the solar eclipse happening Aug. 21, said David Rupert, who handles corporate communications for the western area of the U.S. Postal Service.
“Not only does a stamp pay the freight, but a stamp is also a snapshot of who we are as a nation and what things we want to remember,” Rupert said. “And this eclipse is something that hasn’t happened on this kind of scale for a long time.”
The last total solar eclipse to be visible across the U.S. occurred in 1918.
“It’s the first in my lifetime, first in my father’s lifetime,” Rupert said. “It’s multi-generational and to be able to commemorate this kind of event with a stamp is something that was an obvious choice.”
The eclipse design was based on a photograph taken by retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak, who is known as “Mr. Eclipse” after his favorite hobby, photographing eclipses. Stamp design proposals are sent to a citizen advisory committee, which considers up to 30,000 designs a year.
Every stamp the U.S. Postal Service releases gets its own debut, and that debut takes place in a city or town selected by the postal service.
“Laramie is going to have the national recognition of that,” Rupert said. “Stamps will be available that day at post offices across the country.”
The debut itself — to be attended by both Rupert and Espenak — takes place during a larger event at the UW Art Museum focused on the summer solstice.
During the museum event from 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., visitors will be able to watch as beams of light, entering through tiny windows in the rotunda’s ceiling, converge on a coin embedded in the ground. This happens only once a year, at noon on the summer solstice.
The summer solstice and stamp debut event is free to the public and geared for everyone.
“It’s a good chance to engage your children in it,” Rupert said. “To have some of these stamps and write a letter to their grandparents about how they’re going to get to see the solar eclipse. It’s something we can share as families.”