The U.S. Postal Service has issued a new set of stamps celebrating 10 years of sun-watching from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
On June 18, the stamps were presented during a ceremony at the Greenbelt Main Post Office in Maryland, according to a Friday NASA release.
“It’s such a pleasure to see these gorgeous stamps,” Dr. Nicky Fox, Division Director for NASA’s Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in the announcement. “I look at each of these pictures from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and am reminded of how they help us learn more about the sun and the way its constantly changing atmosphere can affect Earth and the planets. I’m pleased that this imagery will be shared by the Postal Service with the whole country.”
The sun, the heart of the solar system, may be almost 93 million miles from the Earth, but in SDO photos it appears in stunning detail.
The mission was first launched in February of 2010, providing researchers with a better understanding of how solar activity is created and impacts space weather in addition to obtaining critical measurements of the star’s interior, atmosphere, magnetic field and energy output.
Using two imaging instruments – the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager – the SDO began collecting data a few months after its launch, providing ultra high-definition imagery of the sun in 13 different wavelengths of light.
The 10 SDO images on the stamps display a range of solar activity witnessed by the spacecraft.
For example, a coronal hole – a magnetically open area from which high-speed solar wind is released into space – caps the northern polar region on the sun.
An active sun is shown on another stamp, highlighting areas of intense and complex magnetic fields on the sun that are prone to erupting with solar flares or explosions.
A plasma blast is shown with a coronal mass ejection – an eruption of magnetized solar material that can create space weather effects on Earth.
Coronal loops, sunspots and solar flares are also featured in hues of red, orange and blue.