New Zealand’s bright stars celebrated with a sprinkling of meteorite dust on latest stamps

2 May 2019

Discover some of New Zealand’s brightest stars with the New Zealand Space Pioneers stamp issue, featuring real meteorite dust.

NZ Post Head of Stamps and Coins Simon Allison says this year marks 50 years since the Moon landing, and the time is right to commemorate New Zealanders’ role in pioneering space exploration.

“In New Zealand we have some amazing clear skies with which to study the night sky, so it’s no wonder Kiwis have made such an impact in this field.”

“These stamps celebrate New Zealand’s achievements in the areas of astronomy, cosmology and rocket science in the context of global progress in this area, alongside celebrations of the first Moon landing.”

The stamps are sprinkled with real star dust, collected from a meteorite found in Morocco, and celebrate six New Zealanders who have helped to advance the world’s knowledge about space and space sciences:

  • Beatrice Hill Tinsley: Pioneer astrophysicist Beatrice Hill Tinsley was a world leader in modern cosmology. Her 114 published papers are regularly cited today, showing her ongoing contribution to understanding the Universe. An asteroid, a mountain and a prize that recognises her outstanding research contribution to astronomy or astrophysics, of an exceptionally creative or innovative character, are named after her.
  • Charles Gifford: Charles Gifford was New Zealand’s most outstanding astronomer in the first half of the last century. He mathematically showed that the Moon’s craters were made by meteorite impact.
  • Sir William Pickering, ONZ KBE: A pioneer of the world’s space exploration, William Pickering directed the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the United States for 22 years. On the cover of TIME magazine twice, he launched America’s first spacecraft, was instrumental in the success of the Apollo programme and the Voyager missions and retired after seeing Viking 1 on its way to Mars. Sir William also has a New Zealand mountain named after him.
  • Alan Gilmore and Pamela Kilmartin: Alan Gilmore and Pamela Kilmartin track near-Earth asteroids, objects that might be a threat to Earth in the long term. In the course of this work they have discovered 41 minor planets, a comet and a nova.
  • Albert Jones, OBE: One of the greatest visual observers of all time, Albert Jones monitored stars that change brightness called variable stars. With a telescope he built in 1948, he made more than 500,000 brightness estimates, more than anyone in history, and discovered two comets and a supernova (SN1987a).

“This proud history is coupled with the fact that last year New Zealand became the 11th country to reach orbit with the launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron Rocket off Mahia Peninsula,” Mr Allison says.

Museums Wellington Senior Science Communicator Haritina Mogoșanu says this is the first time New Zealand’s astronomical history has been recognised in this way.

“We’re proud of the significant contributions Kiwis have had in pioneering this field, and hope through the stamps and our Space Place at the Carter Observatory to inspire a new generation to follow their lead.”

The wider stamp issue also contains 3D images celebrating the bigger space story, including the Moon landing.

The stamps are now available to buy at stamps.nzpost.co.nz/new-zealand/2019/space-pioneers