The Google Inc logo is projected on a screen during the unveiling of ''Google Instant'' at a news conference in San Francisco, California. Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
Google has updated its coverage of Mars with high resolution images from a NASA satellite orbiting the planet, as part of their freely downloadable Google Earth app.
The Google Earth app has showed Mars since 2009, but up until now most areas of the red planet could only be seen in low-resolution.
Google Mars updated large amounts of the planet's surface with images from the Context Camera (CTX) on Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, with a resolution of around 20ft per pixel, the Daily Mail reported.
The update also has guided tours of each of the four potential landing sites considered by Nasa for its Curiosity rover, with mosaics of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE and CTX images surrounding each.
The lander eventually set down in the Gale Crater, which Google Earth users can zoom into for a 3D view, and from where the rover has sent back a number of intriguing reports - as well as several fetching self-portraits.
One of the most exciting updates is the option to switch on a CTX mosaic, allowing users to view and zoom in on these high-definition images.
Planetary scientist Ryan Anderson, part of the Curiosity's ChemCam team, said on his blog, The Martian Chronicles: "This is how easy it should be to use planetary data."
" Google Earth is still not quite up to the task for a lot of scientific purposes, but it is the best way I know of to quickly view Mars data, and it is a treasure trove for anyone with even a passing interest in Mars," he wrote.