Home Science Space Curiosity Mars Rover Snaps Its Highest-Resolution Panorama Yet

Curiosity Mars Rover Snaps Its Highest-Resolution Panorama Yet

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has captured its highest-resolution panorama yet of the Martian surface. Composed of more than 1,000 images taken during the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday and carefully assembled over the ensuing months, the composite contains 1.8 billion pixels of Martian landscape.

The rover’s Mast Camera, or Mastcam, used its telephoto lens to produce the panorama; meanwhile, it relied on its medium-angle lens to produce a lower-resolution, nearly 650-million-pixel panorama that includes the rover’s deck and robotic arm.

Both panoramas showcase “Glen Torridon,” a region on the side of Mount Sharp that Curiosity is exploring. They were taken between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, when the mission team was out for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Sitting still with few tasks to do while awaiting the team to return and provide its next commands, the rover had a rare chance to image its surroundings from the same vantage point several days in a row. (Look closer: A special tool allows viewers to zoom into this panorama.)

NASA's Curiosity rover captured its highest-resolution panorama yet of the Martian surface between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, 2019. A version without the rover contains nearly 1.8 billion pixels; a version with the rover contains nearly 650 million pixels. Both versions are composed of more than 1,000 images that were carefully assembled over the following months. The rover's Mast Camera, or Mastcam, used its telephoto lens to produce the panorama and relied on its medium-angle lens to produce a lower-resolution panorama that includes the rover's deck and robotic arm. Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego built and operates Mastcam. A division of Caltech, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the Curiosity rover. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
NASA’s Curiosity rover captured its highest-resolution panorama yet of the Martian surface between Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, 2019. A version without the rover contains nearly 1.8 billion pixels; a version with the rover contains nearly 650 million pixels. Both versions are composed of more than 1,000 images that were carefully assembled over the following months. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

It required more than 6 1/2 hours over four days for Curiosity to capture the individual shots. Mastcam operators programmed the complex task list, which included pointing the rover’s mast and making sure the images were in focus. To ensure consistent lighting, they confined imaging to between noon and 2 p.m. local Mars time each day. Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which leads the Curiosity rover mission, said:

In 2013, Curiosity produced a 1.3-billion-pixel panorama using both Mastcam cameras; its black-and-white Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, provided images of the rover itself. Imaging specialists carefully assembled Mars panoramas by creating mosaics composed of individual pictures and blending their edges to create a seamless look.

Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego built and operates Curiosity’s Mastcam. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the navigation cameras and the rover.

Provided by: Andrew Good, Jet Propulsion Laboratory [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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  • Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

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