NASA tweets. A lot. And when NASA tweets it’s always something exciting and worth a look.
Just look at the picture above. It’s an extremely scaled-down version of a 1.3 billion (Yes, that’s with a B like Batman!) pixel full-circle panorama of everybody’s second favorite planet, Mars. To put that resolution into perspective, that’s 1300 megapixels. Kinda makes that big, old, telephoto lens on your DSLR shrivel up, doesn’t it?
How did NASA get such a large image? They patched together almost 900 individual images to produce the largest ever single image of the surface of Mars.
Okay, so you’re probably wondering why you’d want to look at a long, thin strip of a picture, right? Well hold your horses, Sparky, because the very smart people at NASA have a couple of really cool ways to look at that gigantic picture. You can check out the panoramic view with pan and zoom controls to catch the tiniest speck of dust on a rock, some of Curiosity’s tracks, and more. Or my favorite, the Cylindrical Viewer, that makes you feel like you’re standing on top of Curiosity doing your best Martian prairie dog impression. (Without all the choking and stuff from lack of atmosphere.)
To give you an idea of just how much detail is in this image, take a look at the photo below.
See the little red square?
Now, see the giant rock in the picture below? Yep, that’s what’s inside that teensy red square above.
You can zoom the crap out of this picture and they even have some handy reference shots set up on the side. They have an “L” shaped pattern of holes where Curiosity fired lasers at Mars (I wonder if this is the first time an Earth vessel has fired upon another planet?), a bird-shaped rock, and even some shiny objects.
NASA’s official explanation for the shiny objects is they’re probably pieces of debris from the rover’s landing, but I’m not so sure. Between you and me, if they’ve fired lasers at Mars and there’s shiny bits of stuff lying around my guess is Curiosity is probably defending the red planet from unwelcome invaders.
“NASA: Keeping Earth safe from invasion in the guise of planetary exploration.”
Sorry, my imagination got the best of me for a moment.
Anyway, if you want to play on Mars, try it out right here. Click on the “Click to view” button (You can click anywhere in the window, actually.) to load the applet, then play around. It’s MUCH more fun if you click the full-screen icon at the bottom.
Now fill your face with Mars!