A spectacular new 360-degree panoramic photo of Mars is now viewable from NASA's Curiosity rover through Google Earth partner, 360cities.net.
The new image was taken during the Mars rover's second full day on the surface of the planet and displays the gritty, bright, tan-hued soil and rocks. The photo is the latest panorama from Mars added to the 360Cities.net site, according to a post on the Google Earth Blog.
Viewers can click on the image and scroll across the scene to see the Mars surface from every angle.
Other panoramas from 360Cities.net of thousands of destinations on Earth have been featured on Google Earth for nearly four years, according to the blog post, where they are available in the Google Earth Photos Layer.
So far, this new Mars image from Curiosity hasn't yet been added directly into Google Earth, according to the blog post, though at least one other Mars image is available in Google Earth.
To find the recent image that is in Google Earth, click the planet icon at the top of the screen (the one that looks like Saturn with its rings), then choose "Mars." Next, go down to the "Layers" menu at the bottom left of Google Earth. Once there, drill down to the "Mars Gallery," then to "Rovers and Landers," then to "MSL Curiosity Rover." Next, choose "Panoramas," and the Mars image in Google Earth can be viewed.
"I expect we'll see the 360Cities panorama in the Mars layer at some point, but in the meantime, we strongly suggest you check out all of the other amazing layers that are featured in Google Mars to help you explore the red planet," according to the post.
Google and much of the science world have been abuzz with excitement since Curiosity landed safely on Mars Aug. 6 and began its work.
Curiosity successfully fired its rock-melting laser for the first time on Aug. 19 as it ran through tests to be sure that the work of its science experiments will be able to proceed as planned. The first test was a firing of the laser at a fist-sized rock, which has been playfully named "Coronation," on the Mars surface, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
"The mission's Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, hit the fist-sized rock with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period," according to a statement from the JPL. "Each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second. The energy from the laser excites atoms in the rock into an ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam catches the light from that spark with a telescope and analyzes it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the target."
"We got a great spectrum of Coronationâlots of signal," said ChemCam Principal Investigator Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M. "Our team is both thrilled and working hard, looking at the results. After eight years building the instrument, it's payoff time."
This is the first time that the ChemCam has been used in interplanetary exploration, according to the JPL. ChemCam uses a technology called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy to determine the composition of its targets.
Since its landing on Mars, Curiosity has been busy taking spectacular photographs, checking its internal systems after its 354-million-mile voyage from Earth and preparing itself for its exploratory missions to come on the red planet.
The start of the mission is a whirlwind of self-testing procedures to ensure that the Curiosity rover is working as designed and wasn't damaged on its long 354-million-mile, eight-month trip from Earth, according to NASA.
Other experiments, which will collect and analyze samples inside the rover will be conducted in the weeks and months to follow.
Curiosity was launched Nov. 26, from Earth aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and landed on the Mars surface at 1:32 a.m. EDT Aug. 6 near the foot of a mountain that is 3 miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.
Last week, Curiosity received a planned software update to prepare it for its research mission.