NASA Curiosity rover captures massive 1.8 billion-pixel Mars panorama

NASA has shared the highest-resolution panoramic image ever captured by its Curiosity Mars rover. At 1.8 billion pixels, this panorama provides an unprecedented look across the Martian surface, revealing regions that include the rim of the Gale Crater in which Curiosity is located, as well as the Slangpos Crater, the Vera Rubin Ridge, Upper Mount Sharpe, the Central Butte, and more.

The panorama was created from more than 1,000 individual images captured using the rover's Mastcam telephoto lens. Because of the position of this camera, the panorama doesn't include the full rover itself — a large portion is missing from the final stitched image. However, a second panorama with 650 million pixels was created from images captured with the machine's medium-angle lens.

This medium-angle lens produced a lower-resolution image, but managed to include the rover in its final panorama...though it does show quite a bit of lens distortion. The 1.8 billion pixel panorama, meanwhile, makes it possible to zoom in on far distances without losing too much quality; that's due to capturing individual high-resolution images and then stitching them together.

The 1,000 images used to create the panorama were captured over the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday period in the US, according to NASA. The team that operates the rover was out on holiday leave during that period, making it an ideal time to capture the batch of photos — it didn't have much else to do during that time, the space agency says.

This time period was notable because the rover stayed in the same place for several days (from November 24 to December 1), which isn't something that happens often. The images were taken over the course of 6.5 hours spread over four days; this was so that the images would be taken at the same time of the day on Mars in order to get consistent lighting for the panorama.

NASA offers the full-resolution panorama on its website here with a special tool for zooming in.