You need to upgrade your Flash Player The theme of this blog is not only and obviously space, but in particular “terrestrial worlds”, places that tend to have surfaces on which one could walk or at least attach oneself to. These places sometimes also have other earth-like familiar features such as atmospheres, weather, volcanos, geysers and perhaps, we are finding, even exotic oceans, rivers or lakes that are not necessarily made of familiar materials we are used to here at home. The second theme is imagery. Occasionally I do some retouching of images when needed if an image is incomplete or sometimes “dirty” or noisy. I will attempt to correct image shortcomings based upon other images or well-accepted presumed attributes. When this is done, notes will be offered as to what was added, why and sometimes how it was done. This way no one should ever wonder if something they are looking at is real or photoshop.

The Surface of Venus Revealed

Color Image from Venera 13

Color Image from Venera 14

During the cold-war between America and the Soviets the real race was to the moon, but once that race was won a lesser race began to see who would master Mars exploration. After an unbelievably long series of failed Soviet missions to Mars — America managed to take the lead position in Mars exploration as well, with the Mariner and Viking missions. So the Soviets turned their eyes to our other neighbor, Venus, which seemed to garner very little attention from America apart from a few flyby missions. The Russians had Venus all to themselves and really didn’t have to be too concerned with anyone beating them to the punch.

So during the early 70’s the Soviets managed to be quite successful with multiple Venera missions to Venus which included various flybys, orbiters, radar mapping of the surface and even multiple landings on the surface. Some of the missions had failed, but most completed their missions and we have the above color images to prove it. Recently though, I stumbled across these projections of the above images which I have never seen before.

The Surface of Venus Revealed

Someone who knows about such things, Don P. Mitchell (see more on his blog had returned to the original data sent to us by the Venera spacecraft from over 30 years ago and with new computing techniques, managed to reveal to us Venus anew. Instead of just looking at some stones and tiny hints at what a Venusian sky might look like, these projections show what it might actually look like walking on the surface of Venus. The main part of the image above is a composite from spherical projections, which are seen at the top-right, remapped to perspective projections. The way the projection works is the closer you get to the very center of the image, the less accurate the representation may be. However, there is evidence in the data to assume most of what you see here even at the very center where the data was at most thin, is still fairly accurate.

Unfortunately the new projection images were only in black and white and i really missed what seemed to be really fascinating color from the original Venera images… so I tried to colorize it to match the originals.

This interpretation is artistic and not based upon any data other than looking at the original images and trying to assume some of those colors back into Don’s black and white image.

The Surface of Venus Revealed

47 Responses to “The Surface of Venus Revealed”

  1. majman Says:

    these pictures are obviously fake

  2. thomas Says:

    nope. the Ruskies took them in the early seventies. mars is our and venus is theirs when we make our space war bases.

  3. Francis Says:

    Oh cosmonauts…

    …It’s incredible to think these photos have been sitting for over 30 years! Makes me wonder what else with turn up. Good work with adding the color back in btw.

  4. Brett Jackson Says:

    Why did you photoshop out the verdant Venutian pod-blossoms? What of the abundant foot traffic?

  5. Mark Says:

    It’s incredible, I’ve looked at those first two photos since I’ve a child and have always wondered what Venus would look like. Congratulations to yourself (and to Don Mitchell) for the fantastic work on these photos.

  6. BigB Says:

    I would strongly suggest that you give proper credit
    to Donald P. Mitchell for the original renderings, which
    can be found here:

  7. thomas Says:

    i actually do link to don mitchell in the post…? i wrote it before i had found don’s own blog which revealed how involved he alone was to making this image. i also left his name on the b&w original. as to scientific accuracy of the color, i do not claim any knowledge beyond what i can see in the originals. i can punch up the credit on the images a whole lot as i do totally appreciate the awesome work don did on these images. i remember these venera images from when i was a kid and it was shocking to see such a new and impressive re-interpretation of them.

  8. Big B Says:

    How about making wallpaper for smaller screens,
    say 800 x 600? The ones you have now are too
    big for the Big B.

  9. thomas Says:

    yes… i intend to translate all these to various screen sizes. what i am considering doing is making a flash screensaver that would just measure anyone’s screen and make it work there and everywhere. additionally, i’m hoping through RSS i could have the screensaver “subscribe” to any new posts so you can automatically upload any new existing images to the screensaver app.

  10. thomas Says:

    oh… and that screensaver may be able to double as a tool for me to produce various screensizes by just screen grabbing the results. its a pain right now to do all this in photoshop.

  11. Chuck Says:

    The color is a bit off in your interpretation here. The Rayleigh scattering based on a sulfer dioxide and carbon dioxide atmosphere would have an orange to reddish tinge to it.
    The soviet venera landers had color strips for calabration, but they were distorted due the the temperature and pressure on the surface so they best guessed how the surface color would appear.

  12. thomas Says:

    yeah, that’s exactly what Don said as well. The Rayleigh scattering in particular. I would gladly revise if I had some way of knowing how to. the sky would be easy enough to move to red/orange… but what of the ground? not sure how the technicalities would have shifted the ground colors.

    is it assumed the color calibration strips were just burnt/bleached from the environment so that they could not at all be trusted? someone should computer model how those color strips would be effected by the environment and then work backwards to figure out the real colors.

    i don’t have that program :) . this was one of my earliest posts and i have since tagged this as “alternate imaging” but perhaps i should make another class as “artistic color” or something like that.

  13. thomas Says:


  14. Chuck Says:

    Thomas, you might want to shift the color a bit more toward the orange. It should look more like the surface images of Titan, but more orange/red. Look at the reflection off of the drill boom hinge on your image. It has an orange hue to it.
    The Rayleigh scattering at 100Bars almost completely filters out blue light, so in reality, we should be seeing an orange to red color of the ground and the sky line.
    Also, with an atmosphere of carbon dioxide predominance, we should see refraction at the horizon, but it seems this Venera craft is sitting in a small depression so we can’t see that effect.

  15. thomas Says:

    yeah, definitely me on this. Don has seen this, but i am not quite sure that he is as into the idea of artistically representing this image in color. i myself have some doubts about color in these images that are not based purely upon data, but as i have NO WAY of doing that kind of work (and likely doesn’t exist in the venera collection) i can’t resist doing it here as it is irresistible because Don’s work is so awesome and just the final step of adding color would be such a home run.

    i will go into the file again and work on removing blue directly from that channel.

    thanks for helping me get it closer to accurate although, we may never REALLY know. its a safe bet its not blue, that we can assume.

  16. Chuck Says:

    No problem Thomas. I’m glad to help. Consider the surface color explanation found at
    There are some accurate sky color graphs for Venera’s 13 and 14 on this page.
    Your last revision of your color image looks like it’s getting close, but we may need to go darker orange for the sky, which should also adjust the ground color.
    Can you apply color to the second Don Mitchell corrected image?

  17. thomas Says:

    you know, when i did this i had intended to and only started with the one as it just seemed more interesting in that there were what seemed to be some valley-like structures in the vicinity. usually these landers always wind up in fairly flat areas to offer safe touchdown. of course, that valley may be exaggerated as it comes from an area of the original scan that is most distorted and right next to the area of complete data loss.

    i think i might be tempted to get the original right and then move on to the second.

    what do you think of the greenish tinge to the rocks from the original venera images? that always seemed strange to me and yet gorgeous among the surrounding orange/yellows and browns.

  18. thomas Says:

    for instance… why the stark difference on the second color image from venera where the rocks almost seem a metallic salmon color?

  19. Chuck Says:

    I agree, the greenish tinge to the rocks looks interesting, but I think it is a color filtering artifact. Basaltic rocks on Earth are almost totally jet black. Since the Venusian surface seems to mostly be basaltic in nature, it should appear brown or reddish to our eyes in that environment.

    Yes, I noticed the metallic salmon color in that other image as well and thought that it was probably closer to reality, but I think it is another attempt at color filtering. Rayleigh scattering algorithms yield a result very close to that color under conditions similar to those at the Venus surface. However, there are other compounds in the atmosphere there that probably shift the color one way or the other. A good example of this is sulfur dioxide. Carbon Dioxide, which is what makes up a good majority of the Venusian atmosphere would yield a white or clear color, but at 90 to 100 bars and 860 degrees F at the surface and sulfur dioxide added, we get more reddish/orange to dark yellow/tan.
    Also, the amount of ambient light at lander location at any given time will likely shift from darker to lighter versions of surface and sky color as is the case with Mars.

  20. Chuck Says:

    Thomas, What version of Adobe Photoshop are you using?
    Are you using Adobe Photoshop elements, or the CS3 complete package?

  21. thomas Says:

    I am on CS3… we actually beta test Adobe products, mostly Illustrator… but I used to teach Photoshop at SVA in NYC.

  22. Tom Candee Says:

    Please…the venus and mars pics, like the moon landings are fakes…Its all about the UD and Russians lyinng, each claiming they were more advanced than the other

  23. thomas Says:

    k. is the “UD” supposed to be US and is “lyinng” supposed to be lying? conspiracy theories are like assholes. i don’t think WW2 happened either… really. it was just faked to boost the world economy.

  24. jparenti Says:

    Excellent work coloring the photo, and it looks real enough to me. The probe’s original pictures were fantastic, and Mitchell’s work made it even more exciting. With color the terrain really seems real. Do you have a larger resolution file available of this?

  25. thomas Says:

    no, i mean… the originals are not that large to start and don has asked that i not distribute the image any larger as some “for profit” publications have used his work without permission. don doesn’t mind non-profit distribution but understandably wants to retain his ownership of all his hard word, not to mention the genius of even realizing such a re-interpretation of 35 year old data was even possible on such a dramatic level.

  26. Sandro Malta Moran Says:

    Well, I think that it was a great achievement, to reach the Venus surface, a very hostile place. I think the man never could reach this planet in manned missions, so our next goal is Mars. When the mankind arrive there, we’ll be a really interplanetary race, and we could reach other celestial bodies in our solar system.

    I hope to live to witness it!

  27. Says:

    The Surface of Venus Revealed…

    Even though this is old content… i make a point of posting it whenever possible. Not enough people have seen the incredible work of Don Mitchell and his re-working of old Soviet Venera surface images of Venus. This is a new world to us using 30+ year…

  28. Dann Says:

    Artistic licence indeed.

    Is there any detail available of the calculations which were made to affect a landing in one piece on a piece of flatish ground?

    I’m really curious how these guys actually specced the thing. I would say it reeks of bullshit myself, but conspiracies aside, there must have been some serious planning involved and a lot of speculation. In the days of big transistors, it must have had a fair old bulk of electronics. What was it powered by, how were the photos recorded?

    I think it is so highly unlikely the even took place, I’d like some info on how they actually did it (with proper data). Is that still a secret after all these years?

  29. thomas Says:

    Besides the tons of data that exists from the landing (which you can see much of on Don’s site), it would seem odd that the Soviets “faked” anything when so many of the missions failed. Some of the Venus missions failed, but keep in mind as many as 9 out of 20 Russian missions to Mars failed. If they were in the business of faking anything, why wouldn’t they fake them all?

    Besides, the data is not a secret anymore. I would also suspect that if all the image data was not real… Don would not have been able to compile all those bits and have them line-up just right to get the above image. If it were faked with 30 year old technology, you would see obvious flaws and misalignments in Don’s results.

  30. brian Says:

    I’m confused as to why the color calibration strip is not visible in Mitchell’s composite, and why there is a different extension of the craft that can not be seen in either spherical image.

  31. thomas Says:

    they are different views. you can see the rocks that are center in don’s image are far right in the top ones. i didn’t make an effort to show the originals that made don’s because i assume he used bits and parts of all the images taken to fill in all the missing gaps.

    i also do not know if some of the extensions on the craft were extended after some images were made.

  32. Trev-MUN Says:

    Wow! This is the kind of thing I was hoping to find–some attempt at taking the actual photographs from the Soviet missions and giving us an idea of what it would be like to stand on the Venusian surface and look with our own eyes.

    Both you and Don Mitchell did a great job at adjusting the photos for that purpose.

    Also, for that Tom Candee fellow who turned up his nose at this stuff while declaring the whole of human space exploration fake and a conspiracy, allow me to quote XKCD concerning people like you:

    “Please, stop, because seeing you like this breaks my heart. Conspiracy theories represent a known glitch in human reasoning.”

    Or better yet, a quote from the same place: “Dear God, I would like to file a bug report.”

  33. thomas Says:

    all i did is some fancy photoshop tricks. don is the real deal. i kneel at the alter of space imaging from people like him.

  34. I Wander in Space | Says:

    [...] who took the old data from Soviet Venus landers and rendered out an accurate representation of the surface of Venus 40+ years later. If and when I do that kind of work, I am doing it at 10% the level they do. I am a [...]

  35. Ehren Says:

    I take exception to the portrayal of the Ruskies in this article. You make it sound as if the United Statesians beat the Russians to every punch there was, and that Russians only went to Venus because they wouldn’t have to compete with us there. Bullshit. The very first successful landing of any spacecraft on another planet was the Russian Venera 7 on Venus. That’s an achievement. The cold war is over, give credit where it is due.

  36. thomas Says:

    uh, the first paragraph merely lays out the political situation. the moon was #1, mars was #2… the US managed to come out ahead and while the US put all their efforts on those two targets, the Soviets saw an opportunity to grab the limelight at Venus.

    its just true.

    if the Soviets had landed on Mars successfully (and credit to them for trying to land there YEARS ahead of Viking), I suspect that they would probably not have developed the Venera program. the second paragraph recognizes this and in retrospect, Venus turned out to be a much harder target to explore than Mars could ever be.

    besides, the article is not about how awesome NASA or the USSR was, its about the incredible projections that have only become available 30+ years after the mission end.

  37. SayBlade Says:

    Mars, Venus and the Moon are no one’s. They belong to the universe. Their exploration is exciting and enlightening. As “thomas” July 17th, 2009 at 12:50 am says, NASA and the Soviet space agency are not the focus here.

    To whom, then does Earth really belong?

  38. NYMX Says:

    I ran accross a program from the BBC called, Voyage to the Planets in our solar system. The reason that I bring this up, is that they portrayed Venera 14 still being in one piece and not melted. Carl Segan believed that they are all melted piles of metal by now. Does anybody agree with this?

    Also, i was excited to find that someone made a real eye perspective of the pictures returned by Venera 13. One thing makes me wonder though…how did they obtain data for the middle/upper part of the image, when it didn’t exist in the original photo releases? Was this a combintation of radar extrapulations and combined with the known visible surface data?

    I too have been looking at these few and rare pictures since I was a child. It is nice to that we are still facinated, decades later.

  39. Marcos Says:

    The Atmosphere is so thick that You almost could swim through it!!!

  40. Messenger Spacecraft Sends First Image From Mercury's Orbit Says:

    [...] Re: Messenger Spacecraft Sends First Image From Mercury’s Orbit Venera - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia wanderingspace Blog Archive The Surface of Venus Revealed [...]

  41. Keith J. Trawick Says:

    I arrived at the website depicting Venus’ surface after keying in the phrase, “Surface of Venus.” The pictures are marvelous, however one of the images, entitled “Surface-Of-Venus-01.jpg” looks like the surface of Ganymede to me. It is the middle picture in the third row.

  42. Eric B Says:

    Cool that they came out with those composite pictures that give a better view of what a forward view would look like. I always wondered by all the pictures of Venus appeared to be looking down towards the ground, and the sky appears only in the extreme upper corners.
    It says these are “spherical panoramas” or something like that. Why did they use those on all the landers, and not just have a direct forward camera like all the Mars surface pictures?

  43. vinod kumar Says:


    i want to know about the Venus that when we will be able to live on the surface of Venus.

  44. sigit Says:

    temperature on Venus is very hot, if the metal from the Venera spacecraft took this photo could melt?

  45. jjohnson Says:

    I just made an image from a false-color Magellan radar data reconstructed image of Venus’s surface that was garishly depicted in red, yellow and black. In looking at your coloration and comments on Rayleigh scattering, I see I need to shift mine further down toward the red end. However, It seems to me that sunlight filtering through clouds would be a lot more diffuse appearing to our eyes, and shadows more indistinct like on an overcast day on Earth. Hard to guess at the luminosity, as Venus receives a higher level of sunlight, being much closer, but the depth of clouds could cause a high amount of transmission loss, to where it might even be gloomy looking to our eyes. THanks to you and Don for all these signposts and help. Venus ain’t the water planet that Robert Heinlein and other early SF authors imagined it to to be!

  46. wanderingspace » Blog Archive » Surface of Venus Revealed Again Says:

    [...] of the best images to ever grace this blog has to be Don P. Mitchell’s re-renderings of Venera 13 and 14. A miraculous re-rendering of Soviet-era data to create a whole new “human eyes” look at the [...]

  47. Tom Hawk Says:

    Thanks for sharing awesome venus surface

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