NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab has released a 1.8-billion-pixel panoramic image of the surface of Mars. The image was captured by the agency’s Curiosity rover between November 24 and December 1, 2019.
The stunningly detailed panorama was taken on the Mount Sharp side of the Glen Torridon region of Mars. During a four-day period, over 1,000 individual images were snapped by the telephoto lens fitted to the Curiosity rover’s Mast Camera. The images were then processed into a single 1.8-billion-pixel panoramic image.
Conducting this complex operation required the rover to be stationary for several days. In order to ensure it had as little impact on the rover’s mission as possible, the operation was automated to be completed while the team was away for Thanksgiving.
“While many on our team were at home enjoying turkey, Curiosity produced this feast for the eyes,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “This is the first time during the mission we’ve dedicated our operations to a stereo 360-degree panorama.”
The automated operations required operators to program in a complex list of commands. These commands ensured that the mast was positioned correctly and the camera was in focus for each shot. Additionally, to ensure consistent lighting, the camera was programmed to only capture images from noon to 2 pm local Mars time each day.
In addition to the 1.8-billion-pixel panoramic image captured by the Mast Camera’s telephoto lens, the medium-angle lens produced a highly detailed panorama of its own. Although a lower resolution image at “just” 650 million pixels, this second image also features the rover’s deck and robotic arm.