Published: March 5, 2020 12:23:35 pm
“Did Mars ever have the right environmental conditions to support small life forms called microbes?” NASA’s Curiosity rover set out to find the answer to this very question when it landed on the Martian surface on August 5, 2012. The rover travelled 21.92 kilometres and snapped a total of 654,661 pictures of the red planet with the latest addition of a panorama composed of more than 1,000 images.
Curiosity’s highest-resolution panorama
NASA’s Curiosity rover just released its highest-resolution panorama of the Mars that has a file size of 2.43 GB. The pictures of the 360-degree panorama were taken between November 24 and December 1, 2019. The rover’s Mast Camera (or Mastcam) used its telephoto lens to produce the panorama whereas the Curiosity relied on its medium-angle lens to produce a lower-resolution panorama that includes its deck and robotic arm. The composite picture contains 1.8 billion pixels of the Martian landscape.
Both panoramas showcase “Glen Torridon,” a region on the side of Mount Sharp that Curiosity is exploring, NASA said. When the mission team was out for the Thanksgiving, the rover had a rare chance to image its surroundings from the same vantage point several days in a row, the agency added. It required more than six-and-a-half hours over the four days to capture the individual shots.
“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.”
Curiosity’s another high-res panorama
This is not the first time Curiosity captured a high-res panorama of the Martian surface. Back in 2013, the rover produced 1.3-billion-pixel panorama image using both Mastcam cameras as well as Navigation Cameras. Imaging specialists assembled the panorama by creating mosaics composed of individual pictures.
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NASA regularly posts pictures of the Martian surface taken by the Curiosity rover. Last year in February, NASA released a 360-degree video of the Vera Rubin Ridge as it left the site to explore the clay-bearing unit.
The Curiosity landed in the supersized Gale Crater on Mars and has been roaming inside it doing experiments. It found that the crater contained a lake billions of years ago and an environment that could have supported microbial life. Last year in October, NASA shared a selfie taken by the Curiosity on the red planet as well as the picture of an ancient oasis on Mars. The Curiosity also found new pieces of evidence suggesting that salty, shallow ponds once dotted a Martian crater– a sign of the planet’s drying climate.
Before that, Curiosity found odd rocks halfway into a region called the “clay-bearing unit”. It also revealed that the methane levels have sharply decreased on Mars continuing the methane mystery of the red planet. Curiosity had also captured two solar eclipses on Mars. When the Curiosity completed seven years on Mars, we published a story on what it has learnt. You can read it here.
Mars 2020 to join Curiosity
As of now, Curiosity is NASA’s only active Mars rover. However, it will soon be changed this year as the Mars 2020 rover is preparing to head over to the red planet. Both the rovers look like twins, but while the new rover borrows its design from the Curiosity, they are completely different. While the Curiosity is exploring the Gale Crater, the Mars 2020 will explore the Jezoro Crater– the site of an ancient delta. Today, NASA will also reveal the name of its Mars 2020 rover.
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