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Stamps capturing ‘drama of the universe’ celebrate the UK’s astronomy exploits

Science & technology | Published:

The Royal Mail’s set of eight postage stamps mark’s the 200th anniversary of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The Royal Mail's Visions of the Universe stamp collection

A new set of cosmic postage stamps is being unveiled to “celebrate the UK’s contribution to our understanding of the Universe”.

The Visions Of The Universe collection features eight stamps with illustrations of astronomical phenomena capturing “the drama of the universe”.

The stamps are being issued by the Royal Mail to mark the Royal Astronomical Society’s 200th anniversary.

The collection includes the famous Cat’s Eye Nebula, a bright planetary nebula in the constellation of Draco, which was first spotted by British astronomer William Herschel in 1786.

Created by London-based artist Robert Ball, the collection also features Jupiter’s aurora, glowing bluish gas wrapped around the planet’s north pole, and the comet 67P, which belongs to the Jupiter family.

Royal Mail stamp showing Cat's Eye Nebula,
The Cat’s Eye Nebula was first spotted by British astronomer William Herschel in 1786 (Robert Ball/Royal Mail)

Other celestial objects in the issue are Saturn’s moon Enceladus, with plumes containing water vapour spewing from its surface, and the Cygnus A, a galaxy around 600 million light years away from Earth and a powerful cosmic source of radio waves.

Philip Diamond, executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “This striking and attractive set of stamps reflects the drama of the universe around us.

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“I’m delighted that our bicentenary year is marked by a genuine collector’s item combining tradition with contemporary science.”

Other astronomical phenomena in the collection include black holes, pulsars, and gravitational lensing – which is caused by massive celestial objects distorting or bending light.

Visions of Universe stamp collection issued by Royal Mail
The stamps are part of the Royal Mail’s Visions of the Universe collection (Robert Ball/Royal Mail)

The idea of the Royal Astronomical Society was first conceived in 1820 during a dinner at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London.

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It now has a membership of more than 4,000 astronomers, known as Fellows, and aims to promote the study of astronomy, geophysics, and other closely related branches of science.

Philip Parker, a Royal Mail spokesperson, said: “These vivid and beautiful new stamps celebrate the UK’s contribution to our understanding of the Universe, from geysers erupting from one of Saturn’s moons to the extraordinary nature of Black Holes.”

The full set is available in a presentation pack, priced at £9.75, and can be pre-ordered on the Royal Mail website.

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