Having been successfully deployed into a stable orbit between Earth and the sun, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is now poised to enter a route closer to home: the US mail system.
The US Postal Service (USPS) announced Tuesday (May 3) that it will issue a postage stamp honoring the new observatory later this year.
“Celebrate NASA’s remarkable James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex telescope ever deployed in space, capable of directly observing the early cosmos and studying every phase of cosmic history,” the USPS statement said. “Launched December 25, 2021, Webb now orbits the Sun a million miles from Earth.”
Named for the Apollo-era NASA administrator who championed space science, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be used to image the first galaxies in infrared light and to discern the atmospheric properties of exoplanets. It is intended as the scientific successor to the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.
Related: How the James Webb Space Telescope works in pictures
Each of JWST’s new “Forever” denomination stamps will feature a fully unfolded depiction of the observatory, with its hexagonal gilt mirrors and tennis court-sized sunshield, against a field of stars and interstellar gas. USPS Art Director Derry Noyes used an existing piece of art by photographic illustrator James Vaughan to design the commemorative.
“What I tried to do from the beginning was play [the telescope’s] giant mirror, which is a phenomenal piece of equipment,” Vaughan told collectSPACE.com in a brief interview Tuesday. “It’s crazy how much it reflects everything. It almost literally looks into a whole new dimension.”
Vaughan originally created the illustration for the February 2016 cover of Science magazine. This is the first time her art has appeared on a postage stamp.
“I am very happy that they have chosen something that is going to be very beautiful, a very beautiful, colorful and attractive image,” he said. “Today was the first time I saw the full design and it looks great. I’m happy.”
JWST postage stamps will be sold in sheets of 20 featuring a selvedge (or edge) photograph of a bright star that was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope early in its mission to confirm that its 18 mirror segments were precisely aligned.
“More than 20 years ago, Webb’s team set out to build the most powerful telescope anyone has ever put in space and came up with a bold optical design to meet demanding science goals,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at The NASA. in a statement in March when the lineup was confirmed. “Today we can say that the design will comply.”
Since then, it has been confirmed that the telescope is capable of capturing sharp, well-focused images using each of its four onboard science instruments. Science observations are expected to begin this summer.
“Signed, sealed, delivered, we are yours”, NASA aware to their social media channels on Tuesday. “The USPS plans to issue stamps from the James Webb Space Telescope later this year. (And we plan to issue images of the cosmos from Webb). Stay tuned for all the special deliveries.”
Additional details, including the release date and location of the first broadcast day, will be announced at a later date.
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