The Beauty of Snowflakes

[By guest contributor Carol]

This winter, you might find in your mailbox envelopes adorned with the new Snowflakes stamps (which are designed for bulk mailers). The lovely stamps feature photographs of real snowflakes by scientist Kenneth Libbrecht.

Strip of 5How did Libbrecht photograph these snowflakes?

With a little help from a mix of high- and low-tech equipment. Working outdoors, he used a paintbrush to transfer fallen snowflakes from a cardboard collecting surface to a glass slide that was inserted into a high-resolution microscope. He snapped his photographs with a digital camera attached to the microscope.

It sounds complicated, but Libbrecht explains that though expensive, it is possible to set up your own snowflake photography “studio.” If that’s too much for you, you can still become an expert snowflake watcher this winter. All it takes it some optical gear, which Libbrecht describes on his website and, of course, snow. Watch this “Snow Safari” video to learn more about snowflake watching. Libbrecht’s snowflake gallery will help identify the snowflakes you see.

Although the Snowflakes stamps are available only to bulk mailers, USPS has many other beautiful stamps for use at the holidays and throughout the year. Buy stamps at usps.com/stamps, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), and at Post Offices nationwide.

This Year, Let It Snow

Many of you may see a little snow in your mailbox this holiday season. For 2013, the U.S. Postal Service will issue five new Presorted Standard stamps featuring photographs of snowflakes taken by Kenneth Libbrecht, a professor at the California Institute of Technology.

Strip of 5The Snowflakes stamps will be issued in coil format and are intended for use by bulk mailers. A release date has not yet been set.