Archives For June 2017

Image: Eclipse Commemorative Transforms at a Touch

Eclipse Commemorative Transforms at a Touch – Credit: USPS

On August 21, 2017, tens of millions of people in the United States will have an opportunity to view a total eclipse of the Sun. A total solar eclipse was last seen on the U.S. mainland in 1979, but only in the Northwest. The eclipse this summer will sweep a narrow path across the entire country—the first time this has happened since 1918. The U.S. Postal Service® anticipates this rare event with a stamp celebrating the majesty of solar eclipses.

The Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp is the first U.S. stamp to use thermochromic ink, which reacts to the heat of your touch. Placing your finger over the black disc on the stamp causes the ink to change from black to clear to reveal an underlying image of the moon. The image reverts back to the black disc once it cools. The back of the stamp pane shows a map of the eclipse path.You can preserve the integrity of your Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever® stamp pane with our protective sleeve specifically designed for stamp preservation.

The stamp uses a photograph taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak of a total solar eclipse that was seen over Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006. Mr. Espenak also took the photograph of the full moon that is revealed by pressing upon the stamp image. The reverse side of the stamp pane shows the path across the United States of the forthcoming August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse and gives the times that it will appear in some locations.

A total eclipse of the Sun occurs when the Moon completely blocks the visible solar disk from view, casting a shadow on Earth. The 70-mile-wide shadow path of the eclipse, known as the “path of totality,” will traverse the country diagonally, appearing first in Oregon (mid-morning local time) and exiting some 90 minutes later off the coast of South Carolina (mid-afternoon local time).

A total solar eclipse provides us with the only chance to see the Sun’s corona—its extended outer atmosphere—without specialized instruments. The corona during an eclipse looks like a gossamer white halo around a black disk, or like the petals of a flower reaching out into space.

Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp. 

The Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp is being issued as a Forever ® stamp. This Forever® stamp will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce price.

Source: United States Postal Service

Photo: Storm over Portage County, Ohio, June 24, 2017 - by James Guilford

Storm over Portage County, Ohio, June 24, 2017 – by James Guilford

Saturday night’s Open Night presented “interesting” situations. Shortly after arriving at the observatory, we saw rain arrive and heard thunder. Rain stopped, then started again as another compact thunderstorm passed over the village of Hiram. To the north we could see clear sky just outside the borders of the storm. To the south, over Garrettsville and Manuta, we could spy towering cumulus clouds and radar revealed intense rainfall. All of this weather around 8:30 to 9:00 and even a bit later. But at the appointed hour of 9:30, the sky began to clear overhead and we opened the dome.

There, in the southern shy, was Jupiter shining brightly. Hope? Nope! Storm delays and perhaps a bit of spring growth allowed Jupiter to slip behind the upper branches and leaves of a neighboring tree! Visitors arrived and we looked at mushy images of Jupiter pulled through little gaps between tree leaves. Surprisingly, occasional glimpses were had of the giant planet’s distinctive cloud bands and blurry dots of light — the Galilean Moons — could be seen. Then nothing, as Jupiter arced deeper into the branches. We fished around for a while, looking at a couple of bright stars through the murky atmosphere to the south. Saturn was lost in other trees and the messy air.

The faint, fuzzy Ring Nebula would be impossible, no? No. The sky to the east-northeast, inhabited by Lyra and the Ring, was crisp and clear. We rotated the dome, swung the big scope into position, and quickly found Messier 57 – the Ring Nebula. Of the night’s 19 visitors, those who were able to wait out the passage of clouds and darkening of sky were rewarded with clear, bright views of the famous planetary nebula; the beautiful end to a strange and frustrating evening.

Photo: The Ring Nebula (aka Messier 57). Credit: Walker County Observatory / Science@NASA -

The Ring Nebula (aka Messier 57). Credit: Walker County Observatory / Science@NASA –

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Saturday, June 24, from 9:30 to 11:00 PM. Featured that night will be Saturn, Jupiter, and the Ring Nebula. Other objects of interest may also be viewed.

The night’s observing depends upon clear skies and those have been in short supply this season! Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.