Monday 3 February 2020

Visions of the Universe 11 February 2020 issue.

Advance information was provided last month, and we can now show the stamps in full.  Once again Royal Mail have included 2nd class stamps, which is to be commended, and these are very colourful.  I predict that these will receive more positive comment than the Romantic Poets, although they will have a niche attraction.

In the year in which the Royal Astronomical Society is celebrating its 200th anniversary Royal Mail is issuing a set of eight Special Stamps, depicting various astronomical features and phenomena discovered over that time by British astronomers and astrophysicists. The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) was founded in March 1820 and is the leading learned society for astronomy in the UK, promoting the scientific study of astronomy, the solar system and related geophysics. It supports public education for students, teachers, the public and media.

Stephen Hawking was awarded the RAS’s prestigious gold medal in 1985 for his contribution to cosmology and his collaborations on the nature of black holes. He is commemorated in a special Coin Cover that includes a coin specially struck by The Royal Mint.


2nd Class - Cat’s Eye Nebula, discovered by William Herschel – first president of the Royal Astronomical Society.

2nd Class - Enceladus, Saturn’s Moon with water geysers (discovered by William Herschel, 1789; British team first detected water geysers

1st Class - Pulsar - The first Pulsar was discovered by Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Anthony Hewish, 1967.

1st Class - Black Hole – the image is from an interpretation of the data from black hole by University College London, (In 1970 Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose published a scientific paper which was ground-breaking in predicting the nature of Black Holes.)

£1.55 - Jupiter’s aurora - the University of Leicester is closely involved in the understanding of the auroras.

£1.55 - Gravitational Lensing - An optical phenomenon where huge gravitational fields bend light and was first detected by team that included UK astronomers in 1979.

£1.60 - Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko - British companies and universities including the Open University involved in the Philae probe and imaging, as the lander descended sending back huge amounts of data from the surface of the comet.

£1.60 - Cygnus A galaxy - First radio source discovered from beyond our own galaxy, Jodrell Bank identified the twin sources of radio waves from it.

Prestige Stamp Book
This 24-page book celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Royal Astronomical Society. Written by astronomy journalist Dr Stuart Clark, it explores the history of the Royal Astronomical Society from its inception 200 years ago to the present day, including key discoveries, the growth of astronomical science and geophysics and recent space missions. The book contains all eight special stamps in panes not available anywhere else plus two panes containing eight Definitive stamps.


Shown above, panes 1 and 3 show the panes containing the special stamps.
Pane 4 (left) shows the Royal Astronomical Society logo, surrounded by 4 x 2p, 2 x £1.35 and 2 x 1p Machin Definitive stamps. 
Pane 2 (right) shows an image of a Black Hole - or probably a solar eclipse as on the front cover - surrounded by 4 x 1st Class Country Definitive stamps, 2 x 10p and 2 x 5p Definitive stamps.

These Machins are coded M19L, which is a shame, and the country definitives are new font. This means that we have only three new stamps 1p, 10p & £1.35 -  as the 5p was in the Star Wars PSB, and the 2p was included in the Queen Victoria PSB last year.  However, the shades are different, as shown earlier.

Technical details and acknowledgements
The 50 x 30 mm stamps are designed by True North and are printed in litho by Internatioanl Security Printers, with PVA gum in sheets of 70 stamps.
Acknowledgements: Black hole reference imagery © Dr Ziri Younsi, UCL; gravitational lensing black hole reference imagery (Cheshire Cat galaxy group) © NASA/Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center/Science Photo Library.


First Day Covers, Presentation Pack, PSB, Stamp cards, Framed set, Coin Cover.


  1. I know early information for dealers said the label in the centre of the mixed pane with the regional definitives showed a black hole but this photo on the label is the same as that which appears on the book cover and the interleaf following the pane and these describe it as the solar eclipse of 1919. So it may look like a hole that's black but I don't think it is a black hole!

    1. Well, I don’t know where it said that, but the text for Pane 2 does say Black Hole, so there should be no confusion.

    2. I have to agree with Robert - you can't photograph a Black Hole! More confusion that the pane itself shows someone photographing a different eclipse?

    3. That is all rather interesting.

      First of all, the picture on the label is obviously the same as the picture on the cover. So if one is a black hole then the other can not be be a solar eclipse. And vice versa.

      In fact, I'm pretty sure that they are both the solar eclipse. The giveaway is the solar flare appearing as an arc on the left of the ring of fire.

      Also, it is correct to say that you can't photograph a black hole. It is black, after all. But you can photograph or, at least, get an image of the cloud of extremely hot gas that is spinning rapidly around the hole as it falls inwards. A year or two ago scientists did just that. They issued what was described as an image of a black hole. It showed a bright ring of radiation around a black centre. Very like the label in the pane, but not the same. It clearly showed a difference in shade between right and left caused by the difference in the shift in the frequency of the radiation between one side where the spin of the black hole was causing the disc to move rapidly towards the observer and the other side where the disc was spinning away.

      Anyway, the image on the central label is not that famous image of a black hole. Instead it is the solar eclipse exactly as shown on the cover.

      I think.

    4. Excellent! That's why I like philately so much - and it's not even a stamp being discussed!

  2. Received my Universe Prestige booklet today and it came damaged, (not surprising with no protection in the envelope). Called Philatelic bureau to complain, they told me to wait for someone to call me about it and they will send out a label for return. Then in 28 days I will get a replacement. This is so bad. Had I ordered it off them on ebay it would have arrived with proper protection. I have had a problem before and they just sent out another immediately and told me I would get charged for the other if it wasn't returned, of course I returned it. Just thought I'd mention this as it seems a new thing.

    1. I know we dealers - who are not invoiced until the stamps are issued even though we get them earlier - need an RMA number for any return, which cannot be provided until the invoice is issued. Any damages mean an extra order and then a credit.

      I wouldn't have though that was the problem in you case. Why did they say that somebody else would call you back? Why could the person taking the call not deal with it?

  3. Must be a new policy. All my items came in separate envelopes, Stamps, Post Cards, PPk and PSB. No protection in the envelopes what so ever apart from the stamps. Luckily they survived intact.


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