NASA's images of the sun find a place on postage stamps

The U.S. Postal Service has issued a new set of postage stamps highlighting views of the sun taken from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The stamps have a black background with images of the sun showcasing a range of activity observed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory since its launch. The postal service issued the Sun Science stamps during a ceremony held at the Greenbelt Main Post Office in Maryland on June 18.

The SDO launched on February 11, 2010, and has been in operation for over a decade. It began collecting science data a few months after it arrived in orbit using a pair of integrated science instruments. Its instruments include the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager. Those instruments were designed to work in concert to provide complementary views of the Sun and allow the spacecraft to see the sun across ten distinct wavelengths of light.

By viewing the sun in different wavelengths of light, SDO can show solar material at different temperatures. The spacecraft also measures the magnetic field and motion of solar material at the sun's surface and uses a technique called helioseismology, allowing scientists to observe deeper into sun's interior.

With 11 years in orbit around the sun, SDO has provided hundreds of millions of images of the star. The spacecraft has observed events big and small, and scientists are beginning to see how each size impacts the others, giving a larger picture of the sun and how it operates one detail at a time.

The series of stamps features ten images taken from the SDO. The stamps are printed with a foil treatment that adds a glimmer to them. The stamps show the sun in different colors, and the post office says the colors in the images don't represent the actual colors of the sun as perceived by humans. Instead, each of the images was colorized by NASA to different wavelengths that reveal highlight specific features of solar activity. The stamps are available to purchase at a local post office now.