NASA Curiosity takes massive 1.3 billion pixel Mars panorama

NASA's Curiosity rover has sent more than a few pictures of the Red Planet back to its Earth-bound audience, a great deal of which have been made freely available for the public to view on the space agency's website. The latest image to be made public, however, stands out from the rest due to its sheer size: a huge 1.3 billion pixels. Such a resolution was achieved by stitching together hundreds of frames.

In order to create the massive image, the Curiosity rover took a bit under 900 photographs using various cameras on its system. These photographs were taken on the same general landscape area, each showing off a small piece of Mars. After all the frames were taken, they were then stitched together into a scene that wraps from one end to the other.

What makes it even more interesting is that the stitching was manually done by one of NASA's team members, who used images taken by both the Mast Camera telephoto and wide-angle options, as well as a couple dozen black-and-white photographs taken from the Navigation Camera. Despite its appearance, the images were taken over the course of multiple weeks spanning between October 5 and November 16, 2012. For this reason, a careful look at the image will show some sections that are, for example, more dusty than others.

The area featured in the image is called Rocknest, and is where the first soils samples were taken by the latest NASA rover to arrive on Mars. To get an idea of just how massive this image is, NASA offers a version that has been scaled down for those who want to save it, which comes in at a hefty 159MB.

Bob Dean of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory said: "It gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras' capabilities. You can see the context and also zoom in to see very fine details." You can see the image in its full-pixel goodness on NASA's website, which includes pan and zoom tools.