This is what Mars looks like [Extraterrestrial Photos]

NASA calls this newly-released image of Mars “the next best thing to being there.”

The panoramic view of the Mars’ surface was snapped by the Opportunity rover and just released by the space agency, providing one of the most magnificent and vivid views to date of our nearest planetary neighbor.

The photo composition consists of 817 separate pictures, stitched together. They were shot from Dec. 21, 2011, through May 8 while the rover was stationary for the duration of the Martian winter. NASA says the composite from the panoramic camera (or Pancam) is “presented in false color to emphasize differences between materials in the scene.”

Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, landed on Mars in January 2004 for missions originally planned to last for three months. NASA’s next-generation Mars rover, Curiosity, is on course for landing on Mars next month.

Bonus Pictures

A TextureCam analysis of a Mars image is able to distinguish rocks from soil.


A Martian dust devil roughly 12 miles (20 kilometers) high was captured winding its way along the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars on March 14, 2012 by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.


A view of Eberswalde crater containing a rare case of a martian delta, with well preserved channels which fed the lake in the crater, located in the southern highlands of Mars.


Mars’ Victoria Crater at Meridiani Planum is seen in this image taken by NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera in this picture released October 6, 2006.


On May 19, 2005, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured this stunning view as the Sun sank below the rim of Gusev crater on Mars.

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