The capital of the first century A.D. kingdom of Nabataea, Petra is famous for its many stone structures such as a monumental temple carved with classical facades into rose-colored rock. (See pictures of the "new seven wonders of the world," including Petra.)
With GigaPan images, even remote researchers can "understand spatial relationships between the different components of a landscape in a way that a map can't offer," Straughn added.
"One of the things you can really pick out from these images is the relationship between the living city of Petra and the surrounding necropolis, the city of the dead—all [mixed] into a rich topography. ... "
(See more Petra pictures.)
World's Best Magnifying Glass?
Geologist Ron Schott, of Fort Hays State University in Kansas, has shot over 300 GigaPan pictures, from panoramic landscapes to close-ups depicting minute characteristics of rock.
"You can see things over a wide area at really good detail. You can actually ... make out small little minerals that you'd need a [magnifying glass] to see" in person, Schott said.