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1990  Astronomy set

A fascinating set of four astronomy stamps designed by Jeff Fisher was issued in October 1990 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland and the centenary of the British Astronomical Association (although there is no specific reference to the BAA on any of the stamps).

Armagh Observatory appears centrally on the 22p stamp, flanked by the Jodrell Bank radio telescope and the William Herschel Telescope on La Palma. At top centre is an anemometer, a device for measuring wind speeds which was invented at Armagh.

The 26p stamp depicts the work of Isaac Newton and William Herschel. The central diagrams refer to Newton’s work on gravity, orbits, tides and the spectrum, while at the left is his first reflecting telescope. At the right is Herschel’s 40-ft-long reflector at Slough with, above, his sketch of the layout of the Milky Way.

The 31p stamp commemorates the contribution of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich to positional astronomy and timekeeping, including Halley’s mural quadrant (left), the Greenwich Meridian defined by Airy’s Transit Circle (centre), and John Harrison’s first chronometer. Going further back in time, the 37p stamp depicts Stonehenge, the phases of the Moon, an armillary sphere and navigation by the stars.

In all, this is an intricate and cleverly designed set, rich with ideas.

Astrophilatelist Margaret Morris wrote about this set and its various associated postmarks in Issue 33 of Orbit, the journal of the Astro Space Stamp Society.

Stanley Gibbons nos. 1522-1525