Few people are better prepared than Fred Espenak to observe this month’s total solar eclipse.
Espenak, who snapped the image that appears on the Postal Service’s new Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp, is a world-renowned eclipse expert.
The retired NASA astrophysicist has witnessed 20 total solar eclipses across the world and even wrote a book, “Totality: The Great American Eclipses of 2017 and 2024,” that provides readers with everything they need to know about the celestial phenomenon.
Espenak’s fascination with eclipses goes back to his youth. He witnessed a partial eclipse when he was 11 in 1963, followed by his first total solar eclipse seven years later.
“I was absolutely bowled over by how awesome the entire experience was,” said Espenak, who is also known as “Mr. Eclipse.”
Total solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, fully blocking our view of the sun. The Aug. 21 eclipse will sweep across the continental United States, becoming the first total solar eclipse to travel from coast to coast since 1918.
To celebrate the event, USPS released Total Eclipse of the Sun in June. The stamp features an image of an eclipse that Espenak snapped in Libya in 2006.
He learned last fall that the Postal Service chose his images for the stamp.
“It was all super confidential so I couldn’t tell anyone until it was revealed this past April. It’s a true honor,” he said.
Espenak, who plans to watch the Aug. 21 eclipse in Casper, WY, believes it will be the most-watched total solar eclipse in history.
“I also believe it will spark a whole new generation of eclipse chasers,” he said.