NASA‘s Perseverance rover has captured a stunning high resolution 360-degree panorama of Mars, showing the dusty landscape in incredible detail.
The panorama shows the rim of the Jezero Crater where the rover touched down last week and the cliff face of an ancient river delta in the distance.
Captured in stunning HD, it was taken by the rover’s Mastcam-Z, a dual-camera system equipped with a zoom function to help it focus on distant objects.
“It’s been a firehose of data.”
— NASA (@NASA) February 22, 2021
The newly released panorama was stitched together by NASA from 142 individual images taken by the rover on February 20.
NASA says the Mastcam-Z is equipped to take high-definition video, panoramic colour images and 3D images of the Martian surface in incredible detail.
The Perseverance team tweeted along with the new image: ‘I’m taking it all in. This is the first 360º view of my home using Mastcam-Z. This dual, high-definition camera system sits atop my mast and has zoom capability.’
It is located on the mast of the rover, so can also show parts of the vehicle itself, set against the deep rust coloured Martian soil and lighter orange sky.
‘We’re nestled right in a sweet spot, where you can see different features similar in many ways to features found by Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity at their landing sites,’ said Jim Bell from the NASA Perseverance team.
Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity are earlier rover missions to Mars sent by NASA.
The space agency said the rover’s cameras will help scientists assess the geologic history and atmospheric conditions of Jezero Crater and identify rocks and sediment worthy of a closer examination and collection for eventual return to Earth.
The camera system can reveal details as small as 3 to 5 millimetres across near the rover and 2 to 3 meters across in the distant slopes along the horizon.
The detailed composite image shows a Martian surface that appears similar to images captured by previous NASA rover missions.
Mastcam-Z’s design is an evolution of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover’s Mastcam instrument, which has two cameras of fixed focal length rather than zoomable.
The two cameras on Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z dual cameras are mounted on the rover’s mast at eye level for a person 2 meters tall.
They sit 24.1 centimeters apart to provide stereo vision and can produce colour images with a quality similar to that of a consumer digital HD camera.
On Monday the Perseverance team shared a video version of the Panorama, tweeting ‘Landing on Mars is a rush of tension, drama and noise. Then, when the dust clears: tranquility and grandeur.’
A number of sensational images, video and even audio clips have already been shared of the Red Planet from Perseverance’s array of cameras and equipment.
These included a hair raising video showing the ‘7-minutes of terror’ the rover went through as it descended through the Martian atmosphere to land in the crater.
The agency also shared an audio file including a very shop clip of a breeze on Mars.
More images are being shared all the time, with more than 5,600 raw images already shown on the Perseverance page – including bright red shots of the surface.
A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life.
The rover will characterise the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.
Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.