NASA: New USPS Sun Science stamps celebrate exploration of our nearest star

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(WTAJ) — The United States Postal Service created a set of Sun Science stamps highlighting a range of solar activity captured by a NASA spacecraft from over a decade of Sun-watching.

In 2010, the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) launched a spacecraft to keep a constant watch on the sun from a geosynchronous orbit above Earth. Each image is colorized by NASA to display different wavelengths that highlight specific features of the sun’s activity.

“What SDO has done is given us the ecology of the Sun. We see events big, we see events small, and now we start to see how each size affects the others. It’s giving us the big picture, one detail at a time,” SDO project scientist at NASA Goddard, Dr. Dean Pesnell said, in a press release.

The stamp collection features 10 images of the sun; two coronal holes, two coronal loops, two views of a solar flare, one view of an active sun, two that depict plasma blasts and one view of sunspots.

The science behind each stamp can be found below:

Coronal Hole

Credits: NASA and SDO.
Credits: NASA and SDO.

A coronal hole is a magnetically open area on the Sun where high-speed solar wind escapes into space (the dark area seen in the northern region of the top image).

Coronal Loops

Credits: NASA and SDO.
Credits: NASA and SDO.

Coronal loops are bright arcs that spiral along the Sun’s magnetic field lines by charged particles(the lower right side of the top image). Coronal loops can often be found over sunspots and regions of intense magnetic fields of the Sun.

Solar Flare

Credits: NASA/SDO
Credits: NASA and SDO.

An X-class flare (seen on the upper right side of the top image) is the most powerful type of solar flare. The bursts of light can disturb the Earth’s atmosphere where GPS and radio signals are present.

Active Sun

Credits: NASA and SDO

Active regions of the Sun are areas of intense and complex magnetic fields. These spots are prone to erupting with solar flares or explosions of coronal mass ejections.

Plasma Blast

Credits: NASA and SDO
Credits: NASA and SDO.

A plasma blast is a coronal mass ejection (seen in the lower left side of the top image). These blasts can create effects on Earth when they collide with the planet’s magnetosphere.

Sun Spots

Credits: NASA and SDO

A sun spot is the visible light that we can see. Sunspots appear to be dark which is because they are relatively cool compared to the surrounding material of the sun.

The stamps were dedicated during a ceremony at the Greenbelt Main Post Office in Maryland, June 18, and are for sale at Post Offices nationwide.

For more information on the collection, visit the USPS and NASA websites.

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