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.
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.