NASA's Curiosity sets new mosaic imaging record with 'spyglass' camera

NASA's Curiosity rover has set a new mosaic imaging campaign record on Mars using its little ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI), a camera that was intended to analyze 'tiny areas,' but that also happens to work well as a spyglass. The result is a detailed black-and-white panorama of Mt. Sharp made from 216 stitched images.

The 'megamosaic' of images were captured using Curiosity's ChemCam RMI camera from September 9 through October 23, according to NASA. Remote Sensing specialist Stéphane Le Mouélic at the University of Nantes in France detailed the work in a new post on the NASA Mars blog.

The imaging campaign took place at the Housedon Hill location on Mars, specifically the Mary Anning drill site where Curiosity stayed for two months, capturing images. At some point during the rover's first year on Mars, Mouélic explains, the team realized that the RMI could be used as a telescopic camera in addition to a microscope, effectively making it something like a 'long-distance reconnaissance tool.'

The camera produces black-and-white circular images that are reminiscent of a 'spyglass,' hence the use of that term. Individual long-distance images aren't much to look at, but when stitched together, this mosaic provides a detailed look at distant Martian areas that can be paired with aerial images captured during observation.

The photographic opportunity was fairly rare in the sense that Curiosity doesn't often spend so much time parked in a single place — something it did earlier this year while analyzing rock samples. You'll need to head over to NASA's website to see the full-size video animation of the panorama.