Mail by Satellite? New Earthscapes Stamps Feature Landsat 7 Images

Two of the fifteen new Earthscapes stamps feature images taken by Landsat 7, a remote-sensing satellite launched in 1999 to study the Earth’s surface.

The “Volcanic crater” stamp on the Earthscapes sheet shows Mount St. Helens and its surrounding area. The volcano’s explosive eruption of May 18, 1980, destroyed more than 200 square miles of forest, leaving behind a barren landscape. Today life is slowly returning to the area.

Acquired by Landsat 7 on September 7, 1999, the image of Mount St. Helens that appears on the stamp shows a recovering ecosystem. Shades of white and gray indicate still-bare slopes; dark “rivers” are deep channels cut by fast-moving flows of hot ash, rock, and gas. Green represents regrowth of vegetation.

The “Center-pivot irrigation stamp” shows circular patterns on cropland near Garden City, Kansas, where center-pivot sprinkler systems have been at work. Red circles indicate healthy, irrigated crops; lighter circles represent harvested crops. Landsat 7 acquired the image on September 25, 2000.

Managed jointly by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, the Landsat Program has been collecting information about our planet since 1972. For 40 years it has supplied data about the health of our environment and critical changes in natural resources that cannot be observed by the eye alone.

In addition to the scientific information they convey to researchers, Landsat images also can be strikingly gorgeous. “Landsat images make beautiful stamps,” says Doug Martin, a NASA scientist who works with Landsat data.

We couldn’t agree more.