Gigapan Inaugural Image Is NASA-Derived Rover Technology

Article written: 27 Jan , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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If you’ve been oohing over CNN’s “The Moment” “photo-synth” image of last week’s presidential inauguration, there’s another version that might be even better because you don’t have to download Microsoft’s bulky Silverlight software to see it. And you can thank NASA and the Mars Exploration Rovers for it, too. NASA spinoff technology from the rovers’ cameras was used to create a “Gigapan” image from the festivities at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20. Photographer David Bergman used the Gigapan camera system to generate one huge image from a combination of 220 images,with an overall size of 1,474 megapixels. This is the same technology used to create the panoramic images of Mars from the rovers.

Explore the Gigapan image from Jan. 20.
You can zoom, pan, and go anywhere in the image.

More about the technology:

The Gigapan system is a NASA spinoff technology that can capture thousands of digital images and weave them into a uniform high-resolution picture of more than a billion pixels. The technology is the product of a two-year collaboration between NASA and Carnegie Mellon called the Global Connection Project. The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have used the Gigapan system to explore the Red Planet for more than five years.

The rover Pancams take small, 1 megapixel (1 million pixel) digital photographs, which are stitched together into large panoramas that sometimes measure 4 by 24 megapixels. The Pancam software performs some image correction and stitching after the photographs are transmitted back to Earth. Different lens filters and a spectrometer also assist scientists in their analyses of infrared radiation from the objects in the photographs. These photographs from Mars spurred developers to begin thinking in terms of larger and higher quality images: super-sized digital pictures, or gigapixels, which are images composed of 1 billion or more pixels.

Panoramic image from the Opportunity Rover.  Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

Panoramic image from the Opportunity Rover. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell


Gigapixel images are more than 200 times the size captured by today’s standard digital camera, around 4 megapixels. Although originally created for the Mars missions, the detail provided by these large photographs allows for many purposes, not all of which are limited to extraterrestrial photography.

People on Earth can use it, too, and the Gigapan website is available for anyone to use and upload their pictures. Many users of Gigapan have uploaded standard panorama photographs, as well (although the site suggests photographs be at least 50 megabytes). This is just fine with the Gigapan and the Global Connection Project coordinators, whose aim is simply to encourage exploration and understanding of the various cultures in our world. Visit the Gigapan site for more information.

And for even more information visit the Global Connection project website.

Source: NASA


8 Responses

  1. BlackBolt says

    Amazing! Conventional camera and a panoramic image made possible.

  2. Salan says

    Hey,

    Just wondering if anyone over here could answer my question.

    I read that there were plans for the new Mars Rover to be displayed during the inauguration, I dont recall seeing it…Did it make it there? If so, does anyone have any videos or photos of it during the inauguration?

    Cheers,

  3. Gazer in Oz says

    Just imagine for shooting the Milky Way!! But I think my mate needs one of these cameras to fit his wife’s backside..

    This lady is so big, if placed on the bow of the QEII the ship would nose dive!….

    When she goes shopping they have to take off the roof to let her in and out by a chopper…

    She passed a young couple out for a stroll the other day and now there’s is an APB out to find them….

    His wife decided enough was enough so she went to a weight watchers clinic. Crossing the road 20 vehicles, 3 buses and 2 semis disappeared.

    Yep, this camera would be handy….

  4. James McLaren says

    Instead of having to download Silverlight.. I had to download Adobe Flash!!! what is the difference?? I don’t get the point of the comment on downloading Silverlight.

    Besides.. I don’t see anything that groundbreaking here.. yes.. deep zoom technologies are great but they are getting a bit old. The application of this technology is great in Astronomy applications.. Has anyone checked out WWT?? (World Wide Telescope) http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/Home.aspx

  5. Durty Joe says

    Salan- The new lunar rover was at the end of the inaugural parade, I don’t think the Mars rover was there

  6. marcellus says

    If anyone has read Andrew Chaikan’s new book about Mars, it would leave the Moon far behind in interest.

  7. Waterproof Digital Camera Store.com says

    Any thoughts on the new Nikon Coolpix P90? The 24x optical zoom looks fun.

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