Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mars rover Curiosity captures 1.3-gigapixel panorama of the Red Planet

"The image, titled Billion-Pixel View from Curiosity at Rocknest, was assembled from almost 900 photos captured by Curiosity between October 5 and November 16 last year. 850 photos came from Mastcam 100, the 100mm (telescopic) camera atop Curiosity’s mast, with 21 supplementary images provided by Mastcam 34 (the wide-angle camera that sits next to Mastcam 100) and 25 black-and-white frames from Curiosity’s Navigation Camera. Because the photos were captured over a number of days, you can see quite a few variations caused by the angle of the Sun and the dusty atmosphere. As an interesting aside, it’s fun to note that each Mastcam is only equipped with a 2-megapixel sensor — proof that the megapixel myth is indeed a myth. 1.3 billion pixels, in case you were wondering, is 1.3 gigapixels — or 1,300 megapixels."

You can spin and zoom in on a 360-degree panorama of the Curiosity rover's surroundings at Rocknest on Mars, thanks to an interactive Photosynth viewer. A guided tour points you to some of the hot spots. Click on the image to go to the viewer, or try out the embedded version at Extreme Tech which goes into auto mode and flies across the middle photo panel, zooming in on the highlighted features displayed in the side panel captions:

PASADENA, Calif. -- A billion-pixel view from the surface of Mars, from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, offers armchair explorers a way to examine one part of the Red Planet in great detail.

The first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars larger than one billion pixels stitches together nearly 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity and shows details of the landscape along the rover's route.
The 1.3-billion-pixel image is available for perusal with pan and zoom tools at: and a scaled down version (~159MB) is available for direct download here: .

The full-circle scene surrounds the site where Curiosity collected its first scoops of dusty sand at a windblown patch called "Rocknest," and extends to Mount Sharp on the horizon.

"It gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras' capabilities," said Bob Deen of the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "You can see the context and also zoom in to see very fine details."

Deen assembled the product using 850 frames from the telephoto camera of Curiosity's Mast Camera instrument, supplemented with 21 frames from the Mastcam's wider-angle camera and 25 black-and-white frames -- mostly of the rover itself -- from the Navigation Camera. The images were taken on several different Mars days between Oct. 5 and Nov. 16, 2012. Raw single-frame images received from Curiosity are promptly posted on a public website at: . Mars fans worldwide have used those images to assemble mosaic views, including at least one gigapixel scene.

The new mosaic from NASA shows illumination effects from variations in the time of day for pieces of the mosaic. It also shows variations in the clarity of the atmosphere due to variable dustiness during the month while the images were acquired.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory project is using Curiosity and the rover's 10 science instruments to investigate the environmental history within Gale Crater, a location where the project has found that conditions were long ago favorable for microbial life.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates Curiosity's Mastcam. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the Navigation Camera and the rover.

More information about the mission is online at: and .

You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: and .

For more information about the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory, see: .

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Image Caption: Curiosity Points to Mount Sharp. Curiosity unstowed the robotic arm on Aug. 20 and aimed it directly at her Martian drive destination – Mount Sharp. This mosaic of the robotic arm was assembled from navigation camera images from Sols 2, 12 and 14 and shows 18,000 foot high Mount Sharp in the background and the shadow of the martian robot’s head at center. Curiosity will search for hydrated minerals using the robotic arm and a neutron detector on the body. Image stitching and processing by Ken Kremer and Marco Di Lorenzo. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo

Read more:
After investigating for ten months at the plains, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is set to move toward the mountains in search for favorable habitats that could be suitable for microbial life.
According to deputy project scientist Joy Crisp from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the journey to “Mount Sharp” will be a long one. "This truly is a mission of exploration, so just because our end goal is Mount Sharp does not mean we are not going to investigate interesting features along the way."
"We're going to keep our eyes open as we drive and if we in fact drive past something that's amazing, we might actually turn around and go back and check it out, but there's nothing that we see from orbit that's like some super-compelling clue to life or something like that," Crisp said.
"What we have is a real desire to get to Mount Sharp.”

Considered as the “biggest turning point since landing” of Curiosity, NASA hopes that investigations at “Mount Sharp” will unearth new evidence of life-friendly habitats on Mars. From the images of Mount Sharp taken from orbit and images Curiosity has taken from a distance, scientists have figured out many layers in the area, which may offer significant information on how the ancient Martian environment changed and evolved.

Scientists said the Mars Science Laboratory mission has already accomplished its main science objective. Analysis of rock powder from the first drilled rock target, "John Klein," provided evidence that an ancient environment in Gale Crater had favorable conditions for microbial life -- the essential elemental ingredients, energy and ponded water that was neither too acidic nor too briny.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Ageing Mars rover Opportunity has found evidence that the conditions for ancient life once existed on the Red planet.

Above NASA Photo: Preliminary interpretation points to
clay mineral content  due to intensive alteration by water.

Mars Rover Opprotunity has been wandering on Mars since 2004, and it is still producing useful science.
Its remarkable longevity has astounded and delighted Nasa officials, who initially expected that it would last for just 90 Martian days. Instead it is continuing to roll along the surface, 37 times longer than anybody thought it would.

Its latest discovery is one of its most exciting, Nasa officials said: an area of rock which was clearly weathered by large amounts of water, indicating that the conditions for life once existed on the planet.
The exposed  rock ( called "Esperance") is unlike any the rover has previously found, fractured and weathered by conditions that were "possibly favorable for life", Nasa said. The new pictures were taken at Cape York, an area on the rim of the massive Endeavour crater.