After months of painstaking assembly, NASA has just released the highest-resolution panorama of Mars yet. While scientists and researchers at NASA spent some time away from the office for the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday, Curiosity was busy taking high-resolution images of the Martian landscape. Between November 24th and December 1st, Curiosity took more than 1,000 pictures over the collective course of 6 ½ hours. The photos were taken using the rover's Mast Camera, called Mastcam, while using a telephoto lens. Altogether, the panorama is comprised of nearly 1.8 billion pixels—500 million pixels bigger than the last one taken in 2013.
The panorama features Glen Torridon, which is named after a location in Scotland. Glen Torridon is a region near Mount Sharp, where the rover is currently exploring. Regular operation of the rover doesn't typically permit the time needed for such a venture, but the Thanksgiving break provided the perfect opportunity. As Ashwin Vasvada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stated, “This is the first time during the mission we’ve dedicated our operations to a stereo 360-degree panorama.”
In order to maintain lighting consistency among each image, the rover snapped pictures between noon and 2 p.m. (local Mars time) each day over the four days. Each action, which included regularly adjusting focus and direction, was programmed meticulously by the Mastcam operators. In addition to the lovely high-res version, Curiosity also took a lower-resolution panorama of the area using a medium-angle lens. The other panorama, which consists of around 650 million pixels altogether, includes shots of the rover itself, including its deck and arm.
Curiosity's last captured panorama of Mars was in 2013, which featured "Rocknest," another region near Mount Sharp. The older panorama provided a more obstructed view than this newer addition, showing much of the rover itself instead of the red planet's fascinating scenery.
This ultra-high-resolution panorama took months of work to put together by imaging experts. Each individual image is effectively morphed together to form one large seamless image. The full, 1.8-billion-pixel version of the panorama is over 2.4GB in size, but entirely worth checking out. NASA even offers a special tool that you can use to view the exceptional quality of the image up-close. To view the full-sized mosaic (and other sizes), check out the official release on the JPL website.