You may not be able to do it in person, but thanks to Nasa’s new 360-degree footage captured by the Curiosity Mars rover, anyone can take a look around the sand dunes of the red planet. For the best view of Mars, open the video on the YouTube app in your smartphone, and watch the landscape move as you swivel the phone in different directions. Or, click-and-drag the image in your web browser.
According to Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the 360 footage shows the ‘Namib Dune,’ a part of the ‘Bagnold Dunes,’ which lie along the northwestern side of Mount Sharp.Out across the horizon, the agency points out, you can even see a part of Mount Sharp peeking out.
The look-around image was created using a series of photos that had to be stitched together, as the rover doesn’t have a 360 video camera, so in the image, the centre points toward the east, while both ends look west.
While it works in both web browsers and the YouTube smartphone app, the video is best-viewed using a smartphone, as it turns into a moveable landscape with the feel of a first-person view. To look around the red planet with your phone, just open the video in the YouTube app, and hold the phone eye-level as you would to take a landscape photo.
Hold it evenly, and slowly point the phone in different directions. Turn in a circle, look up to the sky, or down at the ground, and the video will show you every different angle as if you are standing on the dunes yourself.
Curiosity captured the scene on December 18, using the Mastcam, on the 1,197th Martian day, also called a sol. A solar day on Mars is slightly shorter than an Earth day, typically taking place over about 24 hours and 39 minutes.
The space agency first released the footage last week, complications in stitching the images together created a product that looked more like the view from a cylindrical sand tunnel than a landscape. Curiosity has plans to sample sand from the dunes, filtering it for examination in an onboard lab.
This mission represents the first examination of active sand dunes outside of Earth. By observing the dune field from orbit, astronauts have been able to determine that the edges of the dunes move up to three feet per Earth year.
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project uses Curiosity to assess ancient, potentially habitable environments and the significant changes the Martian environment has experienced over millions of years.This project is one element of NASA’s ongoing Mars research and preparation for a human mission to the planet in the 2030s.