Billion-Pixel View of Mars From Curiosity Rover

JPL press release

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:

Billion-Pixel View From Curiosity at Rock Nest, Raw Color
This is a reduced version of panorama from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity with 1.3 billion pixels in the full-resolution version. It shows Curiosity at the “Rocknest” site where the rover scooped up samples of windblown dust and sand. Curiosity used three cameras to take the component images on several different days between Oct. 5 and Nov. 16, 2012. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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.

Continue reading “Billion-Pixel View of Mars From Curiosity Rover”

Top of the Front Page

I got pleasant surprise walking past the newspaper box on my way to lunch. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser published one of my photos across the top of the front page!

Star Advertiser Front Page 20130312
My laser night panorama on the front cover of the Honolulu Star -Advertiser
I do not usually buy a copy of the Star- Advertiser, I made an exception today. Debbie Goodwin is working with the folks at the newspaper to get publicity for Keck Week. In the process sent them one of the photos I had provided her.

This is not actually one photo, but a panorama assembled from several shots. It was a nice night, if very cold, the first light of dawn just visible on the eastern horizon. Overhead the laser competed with the light of a bright moon. We were doing tests of the newly commissioned Keck 1 laser when I had a chance to get up on the roof and take some photos. Over the radio I begged Heather to lower the bottom shutter on Keck 1 so I could see the telescope inside the dome. I then took about 15 thirty second shots spanning the full view from our roof.

As cold as it was to shoot, it was also a pain to assemble, I worked on this one for hours to get it right. Only about 180° is shown on the newspaper, the original is a full 360°. The result was worth the effort, for your viewing pleasure I have re-posted the full version below. Click on the image to get a larger version…

Laser Panorama
A moonlit panorama from the roof of Keck during a night of laser engineering

The Morning Commute

When heading to Waimea this time of year, I am driving right at sunrise. Sometimes you just have to stop and take the photo, or in this case a full set of photos for a panorama, even if I risk being late for the truck to the summit… (Click image to view properly)

Mauna Kea Sunrise Panorama
Sunrise behind Mauna Kea from the Mamalahoa Hwy, near Waimea

Postcard from the Summit – Laser Panorama

Assembling panoramas properly is not a trivial exercise. I have been attempting to master a program called Hugin and may have achieved some modest level of competency with it. It is surprising complex, and extraordinary powerful. Even more impressive as it is free software. Properly mastered it allows correction of tip, tilt and yaw in the camera, lens distortion, even translation of the camera’s position in x,y, and z. The task is made even more complex if the scene changes during the sequence, which is inevitable during the fifteen minutes it takes to sweep a moonlit scene on the observatory roof with one minute exposures. The stars move, the telescopes move, while I try not to shiver uncontrollably in the bitter wind.

Laser Panorama
A moonlit panorama from the roof of Keck during a night of laser engineering

Postcard from the Summit – Sunrise Panorama

Watching sunrise from the summit of Mauna Kea is often the highlight of many visitor’s trip to the island. Any given morning will see a handful of tour vans and rental Jeeps atop the summit ridge awaiting the first glint of sunlight. A small crowd of camera wielding tourists mill about, gazing at the spectacle or huddle in vehicles to avoid the bitter wind.

I do occasionally stop to watch myself. While the telescope operators head for breakfast down below. I stop and join the crowd for a few minutes. Sometimes you just have to take a moment and enjoy the privilege of working in a place like Mauna Kea.

Click on the image for a better appreciation of what it is like to be there… Without the wind.

Sunrise Panorama
Sunrise seen from the summit of Mauna Kea, panorama assembled from ten separate frames.

Mauna Kea Panorama

I have so many photos sitting on the hard drive, projects and ideas that remain un-realized. But every now and then I get around to completing one of those ideas and putting together something worth the effort. A couple winters ago I had an opportunity to shoot an entire 360° panorama from the top of Keck 2. I had set the camera on top of a toolbox and took photos steadily as the dome was moved through one complete rotation. A couple other photos were also taken that I could stitch into the result. The whole project made possible with the panorama features of Photoshop CS5. Twenty images were used to make the pano, resulting in a 105Mb image 26,000 pixels wide. The image shown here is downsized slightly…


It was a great day, on top of the dome after a heavy snowfall, simply stunningly beautiful. Hard work as well, shoveling snow and chipping ice off the dome at nearly fourteen thousand feet. The fellows in the image are Bill Bates (top) and Mike Dahler (below), some of the great guys who keep Keck on-sky. Bill has since retired and is sorely missed on the summit.