Once again NASA is showing how new technology is allowing us to learn more than ever before about the environment of other planets. The space agency just published an incredible photo taken by its Curiosity rover, which has been roaming Mars since 2012. At a mind-blowing 1.8 billion pixels, the photo it captured is a highly detailed panorama that takes us closer to the surface of the Red Planet. Composed of over 1,000 individual images, this is the highest-resolution photo yet of Mars.
Curiosity used its Mast Camera, or Mastcam, to take the photos over the course of a week in late November 2019. While the mission team was enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday, Curiosity had some time to kill and so it began to snap a series of photos. The Mastcam's telephoto lens was used to shoot images of the Glen Torridon region on the side of Mount Sharp. Named after an area of Scotland, both environments provide incredible vistas.
Carpeted with clay, the area is just next to Mars' highest peak—Mount Sharp—which sits in the center of the Gale crater. Curiosity landed in the 96-mile wide crater nearly seven years ago and has been roaming the foothills of Mount Sharp since 2014. The $2.5 billion mission hopes to learn more about Mars' past and whether or not it hosted microbial life. Curiosity's findings already include evidence that the crater most likely had a vast lake and stream system.
While the mission team produced a 1.3-billion-pixel panorama in 2013, this new image is truly something special. “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, which leads the Curiosity rover mission. “This is the first time during the mission we've dedicated our operations to a stereo 360-degree panorama.”
Watch this video that shows off NASA's 360-degree panorama of Mars' Glen Torridon region.