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Curiosity rover captures highest-resolution panorama photo of Mars ever taken

Scientists are building a new Mars rover
Scientists are building a new Mars rover for $2 billion mission 04:38

NASA's Curiosity rover had an active Thanksgiving holiday in 2019, snapping over 1,000 images of Mars to send back to Earth. This week, NASA revealed the glorious 1.8-billion-pixel 360-degree picture that came from that photoshoot — the highest-resolution panorama photo of the red planet ever taken. 

Scientists have spent the last few months assembling the nearly 1,200 images to create one cohesive picture, NASA said in a press release. They were taken with the rover's Mast Camera, or Mastcam, using its telephoto lens between November 24 and December 1, when the entire mission team on Earth was off for Thanksgiving. 

While the rest of the team relaxed, Curiosity had little to do — and it took the rare opportunity to flex its photography skills. Scientists programmed the Mastcam to take photos each day during the same two-hour window in order to keep the lighting consistent. 

"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 addition to the 1.8-billion-pixel panorama that doesn't feature Curiosity, the rover also captured a 650-million-pixel panorama that includes its deck and robotic arm. Both panoramas highlight "Glen Torridon," the region of Mars Curiosity is currently exploring inside Gale crater.  

In a video, Vasavada delves into the stunning details captured in the photo, including the rim of the Gale crater, a 3-mile-wide crater called Slangpos and the rover's tracks trailing behind it. 

Vasavada warned the image appears warped, similar to looking through a fisheye lens, because it captures 360 degrees around the rover. "This is the first time during the mission we've dedicated our operations to a stereo 360-degree panorama," he said.

Curiosity Mars Rover Snaps 1.8 Billion-Pixel Panorama (narrated video) by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory on YouTube
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