When NASA shares some space pics, it’s usually something out of this world (literally). Pretty much everyone was in awe when NASA dished out the first high-resolution photos of the lone Pluto back in 2015. Or when they shared Curiosity’s best hits from the rover’s stay on the red planet (that’s now approaching 8 years!).
This time, it’s yet another major achievement from the little Mars rover and it’s the highest-resolution panorama shot of the surrounding landscape to date. The composite photo was shot between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, 2019 and amounts to a whopping 1.8 billion pixels. Now that’s a pretty impressive picture. Well done, Curiosity!
More info: NASA
NASA just shared the highest-resolution panorama shot of Mars so far
The rover produced two distinct panorama shots, one featuring the rover itself (selfie time!) and the other without it. Both photos, however, are made out of more than 1,000 images that were carefully assembled over the past few months. The full image is posted on NASA’s website in all its glory—however, beware, as the raw file is definitely not a simple .jpg image and takes up 2.43 GB of space.
If you want to get into specifics, NASA provides the details about the photo’s production too:
“The rover’s Mast Camera, or Mastcam, used its telephoto lens to produce the panorama and relied on its medium-angle lens to produce a lower-resolution panorama that includes the rover’s deck and robotic arm.
Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego built and operates Mastcam. A division of Caltech, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the Curiosity rover.”
It was snapped by none other than the Mars-wandering little rover Curiosity
Curiosity is currently the only functioning rover on Mars (unfortunately, the Opportunity rover, a.k.a Oppy, was declared obsolete on February 13, 2019). The spacecraft first landed on Mars on August 6, 2012 and started carrying out its objectives over the years. In fact, Curiosity did its job so well and held on for so long that its original mission duration of 687 days was expanded indefinitely.
The high-resolution image features many interesting spots on Mars
Both panoramas showcase “Glen Torridon,” a region on the side of Mount Sharp that Curiosity is exploring. According to NASA, the photos were taken when everyone back home was on vacation:
“They were taken between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, when the mission team was out for the Thanksgiving holiday. Sitting still with few tasks to do while awaiting the team to return and provide its next commands, the rover had a rare chance to image its surroundings from the same vantage point several days in a row. (Look closer: A special tool allows viewers to zoom into this panorama.)
It required more than 6 1/2 hours over the four days for Curiosity to capture the individual shots. Mastcam operators programmed the complex task list, which included pointing the rover’s mast and making sure the images were in focus. To ensure consistent lighting, they confined imaging to between noon and 2 p.m. local Mars time each day.”