2021 Sun Science

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"It's such a joy to see these gorgeous postage ," said Dr. Nicky Fox, director of NASA's Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. I'm reminded of how they help us learn more about how the sun and its changing atmosphere affect Earth and the planet. I'm excited that the Postal Service will be sharing these images with the nation."

SDO's long-term data record is particularly useful for studying the sun's normal activity cycle, which oscillates between high and low activity about every 11 years. At cycle highs, solar activity such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections -- which can affect technology on Earth and in space -- are more common. Although scientists' understanding of this cycle has improved over the past few decades and centuries, the SDO data are helping to reveal more details.
"If we want to understand what makes the sun go round, we need to have this long-term record," said Dr. Mark Cheung, principal investigator of the SDO Atmospheric Imaging Component at Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California. "We can track all those magnetic fields and sunspots moving around and how they go into the next solar cycle -- it's in the early days."

Coronal hole

The dark region covering the sun's north polar region is a coronal hole, an open region of the sun's magnetic field from which the high-velocity solar wind escapes into space. When this high-velocity solar wind collides with our planet's magnetic field, they can trigger spectacular auroras here on Earth. These images were taken between May 17-19, 2016, and the image on the stamp was taken on May 17. The image shows the Sun at 211 Angstrom light, a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. This light is invisible to our eyes and is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so it can only be seen by instruments in space.

crown ring

Visible to the lower right of the Sun is a prominence, its bright arcs traced by charged particles circling along the Sun's magnetic field lines. Coronal loops often appear above sunspots and active regions, regions of strong and complex magnetic fields on the sun. These images were taken on June 18, 2015 at 304 Angstroms, an extreme ultraviolet wavelength.


The bright flash above and to the right of the Sun is a powerful X-class solar flare. X-class flares are the most powerful type of solar flare, and these bursts of light and energy can disrupt the part of Earth's atmosphere where GPS and radio signals travel. These images were taken on August 9, 2011 at an extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 335 angstroms.

active sun

The view highlights the many active regions scattered across the Sun's surface. Active regions are regions of the sun with strong and complex magnetic fields -- associated with sunspots -- prone to solar flares or explosions of material called coronal mass ejections. The image was taken on October 8, 2014 at an extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 171 angstroms.

plasma shock wave

The images show a burst of material from the sun, called a coronal mass ejection. These eruptions of magnetized solar material can cause space weather effects on Earth when they collide with our planet's magnetosphere, or magnetic field environment -- including auroras, satellite outages and, in extreme cases, even blackouts. These images mix the extreme ultraviolet wavelengths of 171 and 304 angstroms and were taken on August 31, 2012.


This view of visible light -- the type of light we can see -- shows a cloud of sunspots near the center of the Sun. Sunspots appear dark because they are relatively cool compared to the surrounding material, because their extremely dense magnetic fields prevent heated material from rising to the sun's surface. The images were taken between October 20-26, 2014, and the frame on the stamp was taken on October 23.

plasma shock wave

The images show a burst of plasma from the lower right corner of the sun, which coincided with a mid-level solar flare. These images mix the extreme ultraviolet wavelengths of 171 and 304 angstroms on October 2, 2014.


These images show another view of the X-class solar flare of August 9, 2011, in a blue-toned 335 angstrom image. These images were taken at 131 angstroms, an extreme ultraviolet wavelength
These Forever® will always be equal in value to the current First-Class MailR one-ounce rate.

Made in the USA.

Product Specs:

Issue: Sun Science 
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
per Pane: 20
Print Quantity: 30,000,000 
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  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

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