Have you ever wanted to explore Mars? Well, NASA is giving you the closest thing to it without leaving the comfort of your own home. The space agency has released a stunning 1.8-billion-pixel image of a sweeping Marscape taken by Curiosity late last year.
The panorama is a composite of over 1,000 pictures of a region called Glen Torridon, on the side of Mount Sharp, where Curiosity is currently stationed. The mission team took the opportunity presented by a reduced workload during the Thanksgiving holiday to focus on the panorama you can now explore.
Between November 24 and December 1, Curiosity’s Mastcam used its telephoto lens to snap the pictures. It operated only between 12 and 2pm local time, so that the lighting conditions were more or less constant, and it took six and a half hours to complete. It is rare that Curiosity has the same vantage point and the time to do something like this, so it couldn't be missed.
"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, in a statement. "This is the first time during the mission we've dedicated our operations to a stereo 360-degree panorama."
Use your fingers or mouse to zoom in and out and drag around to explore the panorama in incredible detail.
The last high-resolution panorama from Curiosity was taken in 2013 and was a 1.3-billion-pixel image from the base of Gale Crater, showing Mount Sharp, the mission's target of exploration, on the hazy horizon.
Curiosity has pottering and taking pictures (and selfies) on Mars since August 6, 2012 and has covered just over half the distance of a half marathon (21 kilometers/13 miles) across the Red Planet. Not bad for a rover whose top speed on flat ground is 0.14 kilometers per hour (0.09 miles per hour).
If you're reading this on a desktop or laptop, you can check out the interactive 360° panorama below by dragging your mouse to see Curiosity's full circle.