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Enjoy all 1.3 billion pixels of this impressive Mars panorama

NASA releases an official gigapixel interactive panorama of the surface of Mars. It's the next best thing to being there.

Mars panorama
This is just one piece of a giant panorama. Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

NASA is going big. Very big. The space agency used technology from panoramic equipment and software company GigaPan to help stitch together a massive image of the surface of Mars that hits 1.3 billion pixels. The interactive view of the Rocknest landscape is courtesy of the Curiosity rover.

It took the rover's three cameras and image collection activities spread over several different days to gather all the visual data. This is the first NASA-produced image from the surface of Mars to top the 1-billion-pixel mark

"It gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras' capabilities," says Bob Deen of the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The image is composed of around 900 frames from Curiosity's cameras.

The panorama is fun to explore. You can focus on particular rocks, check out the rover's tracks, view a laser pattern left by the ChemCam, and just generally pretend you're a space explorer.

Many of Curiosity's greatest hits are here, such as the Morse code in the rover's wheel print spelling out "JPL," and a rock in the shape of a bird. Let us know if you spot an alien in your online Mars panorama explorations.