The high-resolution image, taken by Time magazine, was posted on its website Thursday.
Users can pan across the photo and zoom in tight on the cityscape, including landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, without losing any clarity.
Time said it got exclusive access to the tower's spire from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site. It took eight months to design and construct a 13-foot rotating arm to which a camera with a 100-millimeter lens was mounted, the magazine said on its website. It worked on the project with Portland, Ore.-based GigaPan Systems, mechanical engineers and welders.
"Over a five-hour span of orbital shooting on Sept. 28, 2013, the camera produced 567 pictures that were then stitched together digitally into a single massive — and zoomable — image of everything the eye can see in all directions," according to the website.
According to GigaPan, its panoramic photography equipment is based on the same technology employed by NASA's Mars rovers to capture the images of the red planet.
The panoramic image also is featured as a wrap-around cover of Time's issue hitting newsstand Friday. The issue includes an article about the 12-year construction of the building, formerly called the Freedom Tower.
The magazine came up with the idea of shooting the photo because it wanted to "create a new image that would memorialize the rebirth, the healing of Lower Manhattan following 9/11," Jonathan Woods, Time's senior editor of photo and interactive, said on the website.
"More than anything, when people see this photo, I hope they appreciate being brought somewhere where they can't go," he added.
The tower is the nation's tallest building. Its beacon and spire together stand 408 feet tall, bringing the building to a symbolic height of 1,776 feet.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.