NASA’s Curiosity rover has been delighting those of us on Earth with stunning photos of Mars since it landed in 2012. But its latest image is a detailed panorama that surpasses all others.
Curiosity rover has captured its highest-resolution panorama yet of the Martian surface. Composed of more than 1,000 pictures taken during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday and carefully assembled over the ensuing months, the composite contains 1.8 billion pixels of Martian landscape.
While many on our team were at home enjoying turkey, Curiosity produced this feast for the eyes,” said Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“This is the first time during the mission we’ve dedicated our operations to a stereo 360-degree panorama.”
A second, smaller panorama was also produced using the rover’s medium-angle lens. It contains 650 million pixels and also shows the rover’s robotic arm and deck.
Both panoramas reveal Curiosity’s current home, Glen Torridon. It is an area near Mount Sharp named after the Scotland’s Northwest Highlands, which contain some of the oldest rocks in the world.
Glen Torridon, on the other hand, is rich with clay minerals in layers of sedimentary rock and is of great interest to planetary geologists. As Curiosity probed the ground beneath its tread, the rover’s discoveries slowly revealed valuable information about the history of Mars’ climate change.
In 2013, Curiosity produced a 1.3-billion-pixel panorama using both Mastcam cameras; its black-and-white Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, provided images of the rover itself.
Imaging specialists carefully assemble Mars panoramas by creating mosaics composed of individual pictures and blending their edges to create a seamless look.
Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012 with the mission of searching for hints of microbial life that may have existed on the Red Planet during its early history.
Curiosity will soon be joined by NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which is scheduled to launch this summer. Like its robot peer, the Mars 2020 rover is designed to search for signs of life, present or past, on the red planet.