The U.S. Postal Service's new Total Eclipse Forever stamp will feature photos by the well-know eclipse expert Fred Espenak, who is also a master of many different kinds of astrophotography.

USPS Totality Forever Stamp
The new Totality Forever stamp. Warm up the eclipse at left to reveal an image of the Moon.

When's the last time the work of an amateur astrophotographer has featured on a postage stamp? That's what will be happening on June 20th, when the U.S. Postal Service will release its new Total Eclipse Forever stamp. Commemorating the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse, it features an image of the March 2006 solar eclipse taken in Libya by frequent Sky & Telescope contributor Fred Espenak, also known as Mr. Eclipse.

In a first for the Postal Service, this stamp actually incorporates two images in one using thermochromic ink. If you rub your fingers over the black Moon disk that's occluding the Sun, it will transform into an image of the full Moon, also by Espenak.

Okay, we'll admit that we're stretching terminology a little when we call Fred Espenak an amateur. At the time when he took that eclipse image, Espenak was working for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. But he was being paid for his research on planetary atmospheres and eclipse prediction, not for his photography. His images have appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic and Newsweek as well as many astronomy magazines. But if getting a few dollars now and then for publication disqualified people from amateur status, there would be no great amateur astronomers at all.

Fred Espenak
Fred Espenak

Regardless of what you call him, Espenak is a passionate, prolific, and highly accomplished photographer of many different kinds of astronomical scenes. Visit The World at Night for a sampling of his work. Espenak also continues to maintain and update his personal website even after retiring from NASA. It is the first place that many people — including S&T editors — go for information about specific eclipses.

Fred Espenak has hosted a webinar on basic eclipse photography, which is available for download on our website. He will be hosting a live webinar on advanced solar-eclipse photography on May 23rd.

To plan for the upcoming eclipse, visit our Eclipse Portal.


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