University of Toledo graduate Fred Espenak has taken thousands of pictures of eclipses over the years, but two in particular will soon be appearing on envelopes all over the country.
In recognition of the impending total solar eclipse in August, the U.S. Postal Service created a special stamp combining two images. A photo of the sun’s total eclipse transforms into a full moon upon touch thanks to thermochromic ink that reacts to body heat.
The Forever Stamp will be available June 20. Mr. Espenak and his wife will travel to the University of Wyoming for a ceremony that day.
“It’s a great honor, but I think even more important than that, the great thing about the stamp is it’s going to reach out and inform a lot of people about this eclipse that’s coming up,” Mr. Espenak said. “There’s still not very much in the media about this unless you know something about it and google it.”
The photo of the eclipse was taken in the Libyan desert in 2006; the full moon shot was captured at Mr. Espenak’s observatory in Arizona in 2010. The USPS approached Mr. Espenak when they began work on a special stamp.
He graduated from UT in 1976 with a master’s degree in physics. Mr. Espenak worked 31 years at NASA, and his photographs have been published in National Geographic, Nature, and Newsweek.
“Fred is another great example of a ‘rocket scientist’ who has really lived up to the name,” said Karen Bjorkman, dean of the college of natural sciences and mathematics at UT. “He has made solid contributions to NASA science missions for many years, and also is doing a wonderful job to sharing his passion for and knowledge of eclipses with the public both on national and international stages. We’re really proud he is an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s department of physics and astronomy.”
Mr. Espenak has traveled to each continent to document and experience 27 eclipses. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the earth and sun. The sun’s discus is covered entirely, shutting off direct sunlight.
“You’re plunged into a very odd twilight maybe a half hour after sunset,” Mr. Espenak said. “It’s an absolutely stunning event. You can look at photographs and videos, but nothing comes close to actually experiencing it yourself with your own eyes.”
The Aug. 21 total solar eclipse will be visible from all parts of the United States, but a band from Oregon stretching southeast to South Carolina will offer the best views. Mr. Espenak said people in Toledo will see an eclipse of about 80 percent.
“I really urge people to consider making a trip to get into the path where the eclipse is total, because it’s something you’ll tell your grandchildren about,” Mr. Espenak said. “It’s such an impressive event. It’s not just for science geeks.”