It may look like abstract art, but a postage stamp that will be released Monday as part of a new Forever series is really the satellite view of irrigated crops in Kansas.
Geometric shapes on the Kansas stamp are fields of wheat, alfalfa, corn and soybeans watered by center-pivot irrigation — those sprinklers on wheels that move in a circle. NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite took the photo near Garden City in 2011.
“It’s a pretty image,” Rani Gran of NASA said. “It was one of our top 10 Landsat images ... It compares to Mount St. Helens and the Las Vegas expansion.”
The picture is one of 15 on a sheet of new first-class Forever stamps called Earthscapes. The stamps picture natural, agricultural and urban subjects in the United States captured from the sky, either by orbiting satellites or photographers in aircraft. Other stamps in the series include a skyscraper, a highway interchange, the Mount St. Helens volcanic crater and log rafts on their way to a saw mill.
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The sheet of 15 stamps will go on sale at post offices beginning Monday for $6.75.
Red areas on the Kansas satellite view indicate healthy vegetation, while sparse grasslands and fallow fields are in shades of green, and lighter areas represent harvested crops, according to NASA.
A comparison of the image with previous Landsat pictures from the Garden City area in 1972 and 1988 show an increase in circles over the years as center-pivot irrigation has become more common, drawing water from the Ogallala Aquifer running underneath the land, a NASA website says.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses data from the Landsat to monitor crop inventories across not only the United States but the world, NASA says. The images are also used to evaluate insurance claims and prevent fraud, and to allow water managers to estimate water usage.