Surprisingly few people know about South Africa’s rich astronomy heritage, yet astronomers from around the world have been coming here to build observatories and study the skies for hundreds of years. The SKA is merely the latest such project. In recognition of this fact, the South African Post Office has commissioned local artist Marcus Neustetter to design a series of stamps highlighting South Africa’s historical involvement in world astronomy. Marcus is a keen amateur astronomer who traces his own interest in astronomy back to the summit of Kilimanjaro, where he stood and saw the lights of the city of Moshi mirrored in the night sky above.
The stamps, released last month, depict several of the country’s observatories and telescopes and celebrate the newly formed South African National Space Agency. They also acknowledge the role of indigenous and amateur astronomy in interpreting our night skies. Neustetter says it is possible to “fit a lot of information on a stamp [the background patterns on some of his designs even come from data and satellite images produced by the telescopes] — look at the point size of the text. It’s tiny, miniscule, but you can read it because people go to a stamp to read it. Their eyesight adjusts immediately.”
South Africa’s “role in astronomy” stamps and commemorative envelopes are available at Post Offices nationwide, and at virtualpostoffice.co.za. For more information, contact philatelic services on +27-12-845-2814/15, or email [email protected]
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