Having successfully deployed in a stable orbit between Earth and the Sun, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is now ready to embark on a path closer to home: the United States mail system.
On Tuesday (May 3) the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced that it will issue a postage stamp honoring the new observatory later this year.
“Celebrate NASA’s extraordinary James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex telescope ever deployed in space, capable of peering directly into the primeval cosmos and studying every phase of cosmic history,” reads the USPS statement. “Launched on December 25, 2021, Webb now orbits the Sun about one million miles away from Earth.”
Named after the Apollo-era NASA administrator who advocated space science, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be used to view 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.
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The new JWST “Forever” stamps will each contain a rendering of the fully deployed observatory, with its hexagonal gilded mirrors and tennis court-sized sunscreen, nestled in a field of stars and interstellar gas. USPS art director Derry Noyes used an existing artwork from photographic illustrator James Vaughan to design the commemoration.
“What I tried to do from the start was to play [the telescope’s] giant mirror, which is such phenomenal equipment, “Vaughan told collectSPACE.com on Tuesday in a short interview.” It’s crazy how much it reflects everything. It almost literally feels like 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’m really happy that they picked something that will be very cute, a very pretty, colorful and attractive image,” she said. “Today was the first time I saw the complete design and it looks really good. I’m happy.”
The JWST 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 at the start of its mission to confirm that its 18 mirror segments were precisely aligned.
“More than 20 years ago, the Webb team set out to build the most powerful telescope anyone has ever put into space and came up with a bold optical design to meet the most demanding scientific goals,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the NASA science in a March statement confirming the alignment. “Today we can say that design will produce results”.
Since then, it has been confirmed that the telescope is capable of capturing sharp, well-focused images using each of its four on-board scientific instruments. Scientific observations are expected to start this summer.
“Signed, sealed, delivered, we are yours”, NASA published Tuesday on its social channels. “The USPS plans to issue James Webb Space Telescope postage stamps later this year. (And we plan to issue Webb images of the cosmos.) Stay tuned for all special deliveries.”
Further details, including the release date and the location of the first day of issue, will be announced later.
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