Solar Science

Release Date:  18 June 2021

Issue City: Greenbelt Maryland 20770




Issue: Sun Science Stamps
Item Number: 480800
Denomination & Type of Issue: First-Class Mail Forever
Format: Pane of 20 (10 designs)
Series: N/A
Issue Date & City: June 18, 2021, Greenbelt MD 20770
Art Director: Antonio Alcalá, Alexandria VA
Designer: Antonio Alcalá, Alexandria VA
Existing Art: NASA/Solar Dynamic Observatory
Modeler: Sandra Lane / Michelle Finn
Manufacturing Process: Flexographic, Foil Stamping
Printer: Banknote Corporation of America
Press Type: Gallus RCS
Stamps per Pane: 20
Print Quantity: 30,000,000 stamps
Paper Type: Phosphor, Block Tag
Adhesive Type: Pressure-sensitive
Colors: Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow
Stamp Orientation: Vertical
Image Area (w x h): 1.085 x 1.085 in. / 27.559 x 27.559 mm
Overall Size (w x h): 1.225 x 1.225 in. / 31.115 x 31.115 mm
Full Pane Size (w x h): 7.12 x 6.25 in. / 180.848 x 158.750 mm
Press Sheets Size (w x h): 21.360 x 12.500 in. / 542.544 x 317.500 mm
Plate Size: 120 stamps per revolution
Plate Numbers: “B” followed by four (4) single digits in bottom two corners
Marginal Markings:
Front: Header: Sun Science • Plate number in bottom two corners
Back: ©2021 USPS • USPS logo • 2 barcodes (480800) • Plate position diagram (6) • Promotional text


Design #1: Coronal Hole














Design #2: Coronal Loops
















Design #3: Solar Flare


















Design #4: Active Sun



















Design #5: Plasma Blast




















Design #6: Coronal Loops





















Design #7: Sunspots






















Design #8: Plasma Blast























Design #9: Solar Flare
























Design #10: Coronal Hole

























Sheet of 20 Stamps




















First Day Cancellation – Black & White Pictorial






















First Day Cancellation – Color Digital
























On June 18, 2021 in Greenbelt, MD, the United States Postal Service® will issue the Sun Science stamps (Forever® priced at the First-Class Mail® rate) in 10 designs, in a pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) pane of 20 stamps (Item 480800). The stamps will go on sale nationwide June 18, 2021, and must not be sold or canceled before the first-day-of-issue.

The Sun Science stamps highlight stunning images of the Sun that celebrate the science behind the ongoing exploration of our nearest star. The striking colors do not represent the actual colors of the Sun as perceived by human eyesight. Instead, each image is colorized by NASA according to different wavelengths that reveal or highlight specific features of the Sun’s activity. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps with digital images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in February 2010 to keep a constant watch on the Sun from geosynchronous orbit over its ground station in New Mexico.

No automatic distribution.

How to Order the First-Day-of-Issue Postmark:
Customers have 120 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office™ or at The Postal Store® website at usps.com/shop. They must affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes (to themselves or others), and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:

FDOI – Sun Science Stamps
USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services
8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64144-9900

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service™ will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. There is a 5-cent charge for each additional postmark over 50. All orders must be postmarked by October 18, 2021.

First light image from Solar Dynamics Observatory. “Soon after the instruments opened their doors, the Sun began performing for SDO with this beautiful prominence eruption. This AIA (Atmospheric Imaging Assembly) data is from March 30, 2010, showing a wavelength band that is centered around 304 Å. This extreme ultraviolet emission line is from singly ionized Helium, or He II, and corresponds to a temperature of approx. 50,000 degrees Celsius.” (NASA)

May 26, 2021

The Science of the Sun Shines Bright

U.S. Postal Service Issues New Forever stamps


The U.S. Postal Service illuminates the light and warmth of our nearest star by highlighting these stunning images of the sun on stamps. These 10 images come from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in February 2010 to keep a constant watch on the sun.

The stamps were designed by Antonio Alcalá. Each of these photos has been colorized by NASA to correspond with the wavelengths that reveal specific features of the sun’s activity.

News of the stamps is being shared with the hashtag 

#NASASunScience and #SunSciencestamps.


Thomas J. Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president, U.S. Postal Service

Dennis Andrucyk, center director, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA

Dr. C. Alex Young, associate director for science, Heliophysics Science Division, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA

Dr. Yaireska M. Collado-Vega, director of the Moon to Mars Space Weather Analysis Office, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA

Friday, June 18, 2021, at 11 a.m. EDT
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Visitor Center
8800 Greenbelt Road
Greenbelt, MD 20771


To comply with NASA’s COVID-19 social distancing restrictions and parking availability at the venue, a limited number of tickets are available for this event.

Attendees are required to RSVP at: usps.com/sunsciencestamps.

The story behind the stamps will also be featured on the Postal Service’s  Facebook and Twitter  pages.

To preorder the stamps and a pictorial postmark of the designated first-day-of-issue city, Greenbelt, MD, go to usps.com/shopstamps .


The sun is the only star that humans are able to observe in great detail, making it a vital source of information about the universe. The Solar Dynamics Observatory lets us see the sun in wavelengths of ultraviolet light that would otherwise be invisible to our eyes. Each black-and-white image is colorized to the bright hues seen here.

The stamps highlight different features on the sun that help scientists learn about how our star works and how its constantly churning magnetic fields create the solar activity we see. Sunspots, coronal holes and coronal loops, for example, can reveal how those magnetic fields dance through the sun and its atmosphere. Observing plasma blasts and solar flares can help us better understand and mitigate the impact of such eruptions on technology in space.

The Sun Science stamps are being issued as Forever stamps, which will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

Customers may purchase stamps and other philatelic products through the Postal Store at usps.com/shopstamps, by calling 844-737-7826, by mail through USA Philatelic, or at Post Office locations nationwide.

The Postal Service generally receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.


The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is a NASA mission which has been observing the Sun since 2010. The observatory is part of the Living With a Star (LWS) program. The goal of the LWS program is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to effectively address those aspects of the connected Sun–Earth system directly affecting life and society.

The goal of the SDO is to understand the influence of the Sun on the Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously. SDO has been investigating how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured, how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, SDO, launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Space Launch Complex-41 at 10:23 a.m. EST on Thursday, 11 February 2010. SDO is the first satellite of NASA’s Living with a Star (LWS) program. From its geosynchronous orbit, SDO will point its instruments at the sun, conducting ground-breaking research that is expected to reveal the sun’s inner workings by constantly taking high resolution images, collecting readings from inside the sun and measuring its magnetic field activity. This data is expected to give researchers the insight they need to eventually predict solar storms and other activity on the sun that can affect spacecraft in orbit, astronauts on the International Space Station and electronic and other systems on Earth.

The SDO spacecraft was developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and launched on 11 February 2010, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). The primary mission lasted five years and three months, with expendables expected to last at least ten years. Some consider SDO to be a follow-on mission to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

SDO is a three-axis stabilized spacecraft, with two solar arrays, and two high-gain antennas, in an inclined geosynchronous orbit around Earth.

The spacecraft includes three instruments:

  • the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) built in partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP),
  • the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) built in partnership with Stanford University, and
  • the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) built in partnership with the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL).

Data which is collected by the craft is made available as soon as possible, after it is received.[9]

As of February 2020, SDO is expected to remain operational until 2030.

Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite: Four sets of mirrors were commissioned by NASA to Smithsonian to be built. Smithsonian subcontracted Tinsley in California, and Sagem in France to build each two aspheric primary and two aspheric secondary mirrors. The Mirrors have super polish surface of less than 3 Angstrom in roughness and the mirrors figure error is less than 0.005 waves. The state of the art mirrors took over 6 months to fabricate with the latest polishing techniques available.


Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI)

The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), led from Stanford University in Stanford, California, studies solar variability and characterizes the Sun’s interior and the various components of magnetic activity. HMI will take high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk thus extending the capabilities of SOHO’s MDI instrument.

HMI produces data to determine the interior sources and mechanisms of solar variability and how the physical processes inside the Sun are related to surface magnetic field and activity. It also produces data to enable estimates of the coronal magnetic field for studies of variability in the extended solar atmosphere. HMI observations will enable establishing the relationships between the internal dynamics and magnetic activity in order to understand solar variability and its effects.

Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE)

The Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) measures the Sun’s extreme ultraviolet irradiance with improved spectral resolution, “temporal cadence”, accuracy, and precision over preceding measurements made by TIMED SEE, SOHO, and SORCE XPS. The instrument incorporates physics-based models in order to further scientific understanding of the relationship between solar EUV variations and magnetic variation changes in the Sun.

The Sun’s output of energetic extreme ultraviolet photons is primarily what heats the Earth’s upper atmosphere and creates the ionosphere. Solar EUV radiation output undergoes constant changes, both moment to moment and over the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle, and these changes are important to understand because they have a significant impact on atmospheric heating, satellite drag, and communications system degradation, including disruption of the Global Positioning System.

The EVE instrument package was built by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), with Dr. Tom Woods as principal investigator, and was delivered to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on 7 September 2007. The instrument provides improvements of up to 70% in spectral resolution measurements in the wavelengths below 30 nm, and a 30% improvement in “time cadence” by taking measurements every 10 seconds over a 100% duty cycle.

The transit of Venus across the face of the sun, captured by SDO on 5-6 June 2012. This event happens in pairs eight years apart that are separated from each other by 105 or 121 years. The last transit was in 2004 and the next will not happen until 2117.

Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA)

The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), led from the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL), provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels, spanning a temperature range from approximately 20,000 Kelvin to in excess of 20 million Kelvin. The 12-second cadence of the image stream with 4096 by 4096 pixel images at 0.6 arcsec/pixel provides unprecedented views of the various phenomena that occur within the evolving solar outer atmosphere.

The AIA science investigation is led by LMSAL, which also operates the instrument and – jointly with Stanford University – runs the Joint Science Operations Center from which all of the data are served to the worldwide scientific community, as well as the general public. LMSAL designed the overall instrumentation and led its development and integration. The four telescopes providing the individual light feeds for the instrument were designed and built at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). Since beginning its operational phase on 1 May 2010, AIA has operated successfully with unprecedented EUV image quality.

Photographs of the Sun in these various regions of the spectrum can be seen at NASA’s SDO Data website.[18] Images and movies of the Sun seen on any day of the mission, including within the last half-hour, can be found at The Sun Today.

Collage of solar images from NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory.


SDO down-links science data (K-band) from its two onboard high-gain antennas, and telemetry (S-band) from its two onboard omnidirectional antennas. The ground station consists of two dedicated (redundant) 18-meter radio antennas in White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, constructed specifically for SDO. Mission controllers operate the spacecraft remotely from the Mission Operations Center at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The combined data rate is about 130 Mbit/s (150 Mbit/s with overhead, or 300 Msymbols/s with rate 1/2 convolutional encoding), and the craft generates approximately 1.5 Terabytes of data per day (equivalent to downloading around 500,000 songs).

NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center managed the payload integration and launch. The SDO launched from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41), utilizing an Atlas V-401 rocket with a RD-180 powered Common Core Booster, which has been developed to meet the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program requirements.


After launch, the spacecraft was placed into an orbit around the Earth with an initial perigee of about 2,500 km (1,600 mi). SDO then underwent a series of orbit-raising maneuvers which adjusted its orbit until the spacecraft reached its planned circular, geosynchronous orbit at an altitude of 35,789 km (22,238 mi), at 102° West longitude, inclined at 28.5°.[23] This orbit was chosen to allow 24/7 communications to/from the fixed ground station, and to minimise solar eclipses to about an hour a day for only a few weeks a year.

Sun Dog Phenomenon

Moments after launch, SDO’s Atlas V rocket flew past a Sun dog hanging suspended in the blue Florida sky and when the rocket penetrated the cirrus cloud, shock waves rippled through the cloud and destroyed the alignment of the crystals of the Sun dog making a visible rippling effect in the sky.

Mission Mascot – Camilla

Camilla Corona is a rubber chicken (similar to a children’s toy), and is the mission mascot for SDO. It is part of the Education and public outreach team and assists with various functions to help educate the public, mainly children, about the SDO mission, facts about the Sun and Space weather. Camilla also assists in cross-informing the public about other NASA missions and space related projects. Camilla Corona SDO uses social media to interact with fans.


NASA’s images of the Sun’s dynamic and dazzling beauty have captivated the attention of millions. In 2021, the U.S. Postal Service is showcasing the Sun’s many faces with a series of Sun Science forever stamps that show images of solar activity captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). “I have been a stamp collector all my life and I can’t wait to see NASA science highlighted in this way”, said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington, D.C. “I feel that the natural world around us is as beautiful as art, and it is inspiring to be able to share the import and excitement of studying the Sun with people around the country”.

The 20-stamp sheet features ten images that celebrate the science behind NASA’s ongoing exploration of our nearest star. The images display common events on the Sun, such as solar flares, sunspots and coronal loops. SDO has kept a constant eye on the Sun for over a decade. Outfitted with equipment to capture images of the Sun in multiple wavelengths of visible, ultraviolet, and extreme ultraviolet light, SDO has gathered hundreds of millions of images during its tenure to help scientists learn about how our star works and how its constantly churning magnetic fields create the solar activity we see.

That solar activity can drive space weather closer to Earth that can interfere with technology and radio communications in space. In addition to this immediate relevancy to our high-tech daily lives, the study of the Sun and its influence on the planets and space surrounding it – a field of research known as heliophysics – holds profound implications for the understanding of our Solar System and the thousands of solar systems that have been discovered beyond our own. As our closest star, the Sun is the only nearby star that humans are able to study in great detail, making it a vital source of data.





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