Matt Dieterich figures he mails only one or two letters a year, but that’s likely to change.
An image of Mount Rainier the 24-year-old Pittsburgh native made last summer is part of a 16-stamp series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
The U.S. Postal Service announced Rainier’s addition to the series Wednesday morning, but Dieterich has known for nearly eight months.
“It was all kept very hush, hush, so I’m glad I can talk about it now,” Dieterich told The News Tribune in his first interview after the announcement. “It’s an honor.”
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Dieterich’s image merges 200 images taken over two predawn hours in June 2015. The images, each exposed for eight seconds, show a swirl of star trails above Mount Rainier. A purple tint is added to the sky and lake, courtesy of the aurora borealis.
A streak of light on the mountain’s upper flank is the headlamps of climbers making their summit push.
Dieterich, a research geologist and avid photographer, spent last summer at Mount Rainier as an astronomy ranger. He was finishing work with visitors June 22 when he noticed the aurora.
He set up his camera and wide-angle, 24-millimeter lens at Reflection Lakes at 2 a.m.
When park officials heard the Postal Service was looking for images of the 14,411-foot mountain, they recommended Dieterich submit an image.
He sent the star trails image and learned in August that his image would become a stamp.
“I was just blown away that it was selected,” he said.
He was told to keep the news secret until Wednesday, but he couldn’t wait that long to tell his parents. They, after all, helped cultivate his passion for the night sky.
Dieterich’s parents bought him his first telescope when he was a kid.
“I wanted to learn about space,” he said. “Then I wanted to show people what I was seeing, so I eventually connected a camera to the telescope.”
The 16 National Park Centennial forever stamps are to be issued June 2. A ceremony is planned as part of the May 28-June 4 World Stamp Show in New York.
The Park Service continues to release its selections for the stamp series through April 22. Rainier was the 13th park announced and the only one so far in the Northwest.