Monday, February 22, 2016

The Moon Forever Stamp - Encouraging Observations of our Awesome Moon

Photographer:  Beth Swanson
Designer:  Greg Breeding
Art Director:  William Gicker
The Moon Stamp is here, with a release date of February 22, from Washington, DC!  Being a lunar scientist who also loves stamps, this is a really fun event for me, and one that helps remind us all how easy it can be to just look up and see our cosmic companion in orbit.  The Moon has been gazing down at us since almost the very beginning of Earth's history.  But it has only been geologically very recently that something intelligent has been gazing back, pondering, writing poems, and eventually, exploring.

The USPS site says: "Taken as the full moon rises, the image captures the brilliant surface of earth’s only natural satellite.  Issued at the $1.20 price, this Global Forever stamp can be used to mail a one-ounce letter to any country to which First-Class Mail International service is available."

I agree with Kelly Beatty at Sky and telescope, who says in this article that "The golden orb is pretty, though the USPS might have have provided a "teachable moment" by using a cycle of lunar phases in its 10-stamp sheet, rather than merely showing the same image over and over."

Gorgeous sheet of stamps, but would phases have been a better way to engage the public?
Not surprisingly, the USPS chose to unveil it's stamp on the date of full moon itself, February 22 18:20 UTC.

Get ready, InOMN is October 8, 2016!
That the Moon changes with time is obvious if one looks at the Moon even casually a few times over the course of a month.  Still, what causes the phases of the moon is a source of confusion for people, since it isn't as simple as something like clouds or the Earth's shadow.  Instead, the phases are caused by the geometry between the Sun, Moon, and Earth.  You can investigate phases further through the NASA Starchild site, and even make some Oreo cookie phases from an activity at NASA's SpacePlace.

Having spent this time learning about the Moon's phases has probably made you want to take another, closer look.  While anytime is a great time to go look at the Moon (weather and phase permitting), there is one night a year that is particularly special.  That is International Observe the Moon Night, or InOMN.  InOMN is a yearly celebration where people the world over all gaze at the Moon together; the site has listings of events, activities, and ways to get involved.

Moon Mappers - You are the scientist!
And now that you've spent all this time learning about Moon phases, observing the Moon, and gushing over the Moon stamp, you want to do some real research.  I know exactly how you feel.  One great way to get involved is with Moon Mappers, a part of CosmoQuest Virtual Research Facilty.  If you want to engage in great citizen science that actually gets published in peer reviewed science journals, then head on over there. Click on the "Moon Mappers" button, and start mapping the Moon!  Don't miss all the other great projects, either, that will have you taking data all over the solar system (and beyond ...)

Image Credits:  Stamps!  The United States Postal Service, InOMN Logo, InOMN resources site, Moon Mappers,  Visit them all and learn more!

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