Take out your phone and click on the link below. Just do it.
This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Not the photo above, but what lies through that link.
Pause: As per the instructions of Joel Housman who first recommended this, you need to be on an iPhone or iPad, or maybe a tablet browser, for it to have its full effect. On an iPad or iPhone, you should open it in Safari, not a Twitter client's browser. But then just click the link.
This is a 360 degree view of the planet Mars.
If you move the phone in any direction, it acts as a window, and the view moves with it. If you look down, you see the rocks and gravel of Mars. If you point the phone up, you see the small sun and the planet's sour sky. If you look to the horizon and tilt your phone, you see the rocks and dirt close to you move faster than the furthest points; it feels like you're standing there. Just try it, even if you have to borrow someone's phone.
Show it to your parents. Show it to your kids. If you're a teacher, start the first day of school by passing around your iPhone and saying, "This is why you're learning math."
Here is what this visualization has shocked me into: Mars, through this app, isn't a series of inquiries or a collection of images. It's a planet. It has a horizon, and there are a thounsand thousand views of that horizon. It has rocks, and there are a thousand thousand of those. It looks upon a sun, in a sky, which, from any vantage point, might look any of a thousand thousand ways.
Mars is a planet, full of places.
This view demands wonder. For this view, of another planet's horizon, of another planet that's just a single clump of matter out from ours, in just one galaxy that happens to be ours in the universe. There are countless horizons like this, horizons beyond our reckoning.
UPDATE: To maximize enjoyment, some of Curiosity's images were altered or augmented. Carl Franzen, at Talking Points Memo, explains the process.
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