As 2019 came to a close and most people were heading home for the holidays the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team at NASA were hard at work on the latest and greatest 1.8 billion pixel, 360 degree panorama of the Martian surface.
Over 1000 images were taken on the Rover's Mastcam which shoots using a telephoto lens. It took around 6.5 hours to complete over 4 days. Why 4 days? Well, the team had to ensure the lighting was consistent enough to stitch together well, so they restricted shooting times to between 12pm-2pm local time on Mars across the 4 days. The thing is, they weren’t even there. They set the Rover to "automatic mode" and let it carry on while they went home for Thanksgiving.
Ashwin Vasavada, the project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which heads the Curiosity mission detailed how they set the rover to shoot during the holiday break while it awaited input upon their return. "While many on our team were at home enjoying turkey, Curiosity produced this feast for the eyes. This is the first time during the mission we've dedicated our operations to a stereo 360-degree panorama."
Shot between 24th November and 1st December 2019, the panorama depicts the "Glen Torridon" region, adjacent to Mount Sharp where Curiosity is exploring. To view the 360 degree panorama yourself in Virtual Reality, head here. Or if you want to take a look at the still image, download it here, courtesy of JPL. To read more about the mission click here for NASA's write-up.