NASA Constructs Billion Pixel Image Of The Red Planet
June 20, 2013

NASA Constructs Billion Pixel Image Of The Red Planet

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Update (June 20, 2013 9:35 a.m.)

Along with the NASA release of the first-ever billion-pixel mosaic of the surface of Mars within the Gale Crater, one company is taking the initiative to bring such brilliant displays to the public using its sophisticated technology.

GigaPan, which offers gigapixel panoramas, is being utilized to display images taken by Mars Science Laboratory´s Curiosity rover. Equipped with a camera capable of capturing pictures of the Martian world with such quality, the rover transmits the images back to scientists, who then compile them into expansive panoramas, including the newly-released billion-pixel panorama.

By displaying the stitched images on the GigaPan website, NASA and JPL are able to give viewers the opportunity to explore the landscape of Mars in a whole new way. And with the interactive capabilities of the GigaPan images, users can zoom extremely close to the surface of Mars,“ so close that even the tiniest of rocks, grains and dust ripples seem to stand out in exquisite detail."

"We couldn't be more excited to work with NASA in sharing unique images of Mars with the public. This gigapixel image of the rover allows viewers to see incredible detail," said Josh Friedman, CEO of GigaPan. "The NASA JPL gallery on the GigaPan site allows researchers and the general public to zoom in on the intricate features of unique terrain in these Mars images. We hope this level of interactivity will not only support the mission´s overall research goals, but also help increase public interest in the Mars exploration program."

As Curiosity continues its two-year mission on the Red Planet, it will continue to transmit stunning images of the Martian world. With the help of GigaPan, many more stunning mosaics and panoramas could become available in the coming months, offering significant insight into a place that has never been studied by human explorers.

With GigaPan, both experienced and novice photographers can use the technology to create high-resolution panoramas more easily than ever before, offering new and unique perspectives on the world.

According to the company, there is no other full service panoramic photography equipment and software package on the market today that can compare to GigaPan.

Main Story (June 19, 2013 2:22 p.m.)

NASA is allowing amateur explorers a unique opportunity to explore a section of Mars with a newly developed high-detail image of the Red Planet's surface. The image, consisting of more than a billion pixels stitched together, was recently taken by the space agency's Curiosity rover.

The first billion-plus-pixel image is stitched together with nearly 900 exposures taken by the rover's onboard cameras. The image can be seen in full detail, complete with pan and zoom controls on NASA's Mars Exploration website.

The image was taken at Rocknest, where Curiosity collected its first scoops of sand. The image also includes a view of Mount Sharp in the background.

Bob Deen of the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said this scene "gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras' capabilities." He added that with the pan and zoom capabilities on the Mars Exploration site, users can "see very fine details" of the Martian surface.

Deen said the scene was constructed using 850 frames from the telephoto camera on Curiosity's Mast Camera instrument, along with 21 frames from the MastCam's wider-angle camera and an additional 25 black-and-white frames, which were mostly of the rover itself, from the Navigation Camera.

The images were taken at different times over the course of several weeks from October 5 to November 16, 2012. The raw images gleaned from those snapshots have been posted on JPL's multimedia page where fans worldwide have used them to create breathtaking mosaics, of which at least one gigapixel scene was constructed.

NASA's mosaic shows illuminating effects from several different periods of time within a day and also shows variations in the clarity of the atmosphere due to variable dustiness that blanketed the planet´s atmosphere during the month the images were taken.

Apart from taking spectacular images of the Red Planet, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory project is also busy commanding Curiosity and its instruments to investigate the environmental history of the planet's Gale Crater.

So far, the rover has successfully scooped up soil samples, drilled two rocks, and gathered material for onboard-lab tests. The Gale Crater has been deemed an invaluable point of interest in the hunt for conditions that may have been favorable for microbial life to exist.

Curiosity is now on a stroll toward Mount Sharp where it will continue investigating for signs of life on the Red Planet. The trip there is expected to take several months.