When you’re chained to your office desk on a 80-degree-and-cloudless July day, you might find your mind wandering to some far-away place: the shore, the mountains, your backyard lawn chair under a sputtering sprinkler. But I bet you haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about heading to Mars. Until now. NASA recently released a totally mind-blowing panoramic photo of the Red Planet (the two images here are excerpted from the one big picture), assembled from frames shot by the Mars rover Opportunity over a four-month period as it winds down its eight-year tour of interplanetary duty. The image is shown in “false color,” a technical trick that plays up the visual differences between various materials and textures, rendering the whole thing so vivid that it looks like you could just step right onto the copper-hued sand, lay down a towel, and chill out for a while under a toasty extraterrestrial sun. (But watch out for Martians: A new NASA study suggests that molecular evidence of life on Mars might exist just a few inches below the surface, waiting to be unearthed by the new Curiosity rover which is set to touch down on August 5.)
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.