Stamps Honoring Bioluminescent Life Rely on Clever 'Glow' Trick

A glowing marine worm, one of 10 examples included in the U.S. Postal Service's new stamp collection on bioluminescent life. (Photo: U.S. Postal Service/Edith Widder)

For its collection of themed Forever stamps, the U.S. Postal Service is choosing to honor the beautiful and mysterious world of bioluminescent life. Perhaps knowing that regular paper just wouldn't do these magnificent creatures justice, the agency decided to employ a bit of visual trickery to make each image glint in broad daylight.

"These stamps were created so that they reflect back light to mimic the effect of bioluminescence," U.S. Postal Service Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President Jeffrey Williamson said in a statement. “Much like the magical creatures we’re celebrating today, these stamps are truly dazzling."

A bioluminescent sea pen.
A bioluminescent sea pen. (Photo: U.S. Postal Service/Edith Widder)

To make the 10 images appear to glow, the U.S. Postal Service used a proprietary rainbow holographic material that is highly reflective in white light. This allows each to retain the beautiful colors and rich detail, while adding a bit of razzle-dazzle to the overall appearance.

"These are such amazing creatures,” CEO and senior scientist of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA) Edith Widder, whose photographs appear on seven of the stamps, said. "It’s thrilling to be able to share these images and help reveal what I think is one of the most entrancing, but least known wonders of the natural world — the ability to make light."

A cluster of gilled bioluminescent mushrooms.
A cluster of gilled bioluminescent mushrooms. (Photo: U.S. Postal Service/Taylor F. Lockwood)

The 10 stamps include images of a deep-ocean octopus (Stauroteuthis syrtensis), a midwater jellyfish (Atolla vanhoeffeni), a firefly (Lampyridae) and even the haunting blue glow of deep-sea bamboo coral (Keratoisis flexibilis).

You can pick up a sheet of the Forever stamps honoring bioluminescent life for $10. Like other gorgeous collections covering everything from space to national parks, we won't be surprised if you find them too pretty to ever use.

You can gaze at the full dazzling collection below.

The full stamp collection from the U.S. Postal Service honoring bioluminescent life.
The full stamp collection from the U.S. Postal Service honoring bioluminescent life. (Photo: U.S. Postal Service)