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NASA releases high-quality Mars panorama

The US space agency says its the "next thing best thing to being there."

Mars nasa panorama 120709Enlarge
Part of the Mars panorama released by NASA that combines 817 images taken by the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. (NASA/Courtesy)

The US space agency NASA has released a detailed panorama of Mars, using 817 pictures taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

BBC says the pictures were taken over a four-month period, and show new rover tracks, an old impact crater, as well as the rover's solar arrays and deck in the foreground. 

"The images provide a spectacularly detailed view," scientist Jim Bell from Arizona State University is quoted as saying by Sky News. NASA added they were the "next thing best thing to being there."

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The photos were stitched together to form a near-wraparound of the rocky outcrop informally known as "Greeley Haven," where Opportunity spent its eight winter, Wired explains.

The New York Daily News says the panorama was released as NASA celebrated its fifteenth year of robotic rover exploration on the Red Planet.  The first rover, Sojourner, landed there on July 4 1997 as part of the Pathfinder mission, and Opportunity landed with its sister rover, Spirit, in January 2004.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/120709/nasa-releases-high-quality-mars-panorama