Featured Image Source: NASA Curiosity
NASA's Curiosity rover was launched atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on November 26, 2011 as part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL) to explore the Gale Crater. Astronomers believe that lakes and streams filled the Gale Crater with liquid water billions of years ago. That is the reason why NASA landed the rover there. The car-sized rover arrived to Mars' surface on August 6, 2012, since then the rover has been exploring the Martian terrain by sending information and images. Today, NASA released the most stunning 1.8-Billion-Pixels panoramic photograph of the Red Planet's surface -in the highest resolution ever achieved by the agency. The landscape panorama is stitched together using over a thousand photos captured by Curiosity during Thanksgiving holiday last year (November 24 to December 1). Teams carefully stitched all images together over the past months. Curiosity's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ashwin Vasavada, who leads the rover's mission shared:
"While many on our team were at home enjoying turkey, Curiosity produced this feast for the eyes. This is the first time during the mission we've dedicated our operations to a stereo 360-degree panorama."
To take photographs, Curiosity is equipped with a Mast Camera, also known as MastCam -this kind of camera uses a telephoto lens to produce a panoramic image. It also features a medium-angle lens camera that gives Curiosity capacity to take a "selfie" that shows its deck and robotic arm. NASA shared two high-resolution images, one featuring part of the rover. Both panoramas show a region on Mars referred to as "Glen Torridon" which is located on the side of "Mount Sharp."
These areas are located in Gale Crater. Mount Sharp is a 16,404-foot mountain in the crater's center. The area photographed, Glen Torridon is full of clay mineral deposits. Curiosity captured the images over a four day period and required more than six hours and thirty minutes to capture over a thousand individual shots. Before leaving for Thanksgiving feast, NASA's operators programmed Curiosity's MastCam to ensure all images would be sharp, in focus. They also confined the capturing photos task into a timeframe between noon and 2:00 p.m. Martian Time each day, in order to have a similar lighting across every photograph. They stitched all images into a beautiful landscape panorama of the Martian surface that NASA astronauts will one day set foot on to explore.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory website features a special interactive tool to zoom into the newly published image in ultra-high-resolution: 1.8-Billion-Pixels Mars Panorama