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Sara Swann
By Sara Swann May 9, 2024

Is this the ‘clearest image’ of planet Venus? No, that photo was altered multiple times

If Your Time is short

  • This is not a genuine photo of the planet Venus.

  • A U.S.-based researcher created the image by editing original panoramic photos taken by a Soviet Union space probe with the programming language C++ and photo-editing software Adobe Photoshop. 

  • The researcher’s edited image shows details not seen in the original space probe images, including distant hills on Venus. Other people further edited the researcher’s black-and-white image to color it yellow.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the planet Venus — or is it?

An April 29 Facebook post shared a photo that claimed to show the "clearest image ever taken of Venus."

The photo shows a hazy, yellow atmosphere, rocky terrain, small hills in the distance and part of the space probe that supposedly took the image.

This Facebook post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

(Screengrab from Facebook)

Although parts of this image derive from real photos of Venus, the image has been altered multiple times to give the appearance of what the planet’s landscape may look like.

A reverse-image search using TinEye traced this photo to a black-and-white version described as a "perspective image mosaic" on a website created by Donald P. Mitchell, a U.S.-based retired scientific researcher.

The left image is from the misleading Facebook post and the right image is from Donald P. Mitchell’s website.

Mitchell said on his website that he created images of Venus’ surface using raw imagery data from Venera 13, a Soviet Union space probe launched in 1981. Mitchell said on X in 2020 that he obtained this data from "friends in the Russian science community."

After Venera 13 landed on Venus, the space probe gathered data and took photos for two hours before breaking under the planet’s harsh conditions. Venus, the second-closest planet to the sun, has the solar system’s hottest temperatures among planets.

Featured Fact-check

Venera 13 took almost two dozen color and black-and-white panoramic photographs of Venus’ surface. The color photos have a yellow tone. NASA said Venus’ true color is difficult to determine because the planet’s atmosphere filters out blue light.

(Screengrab from Donald P. Mitchell’s website)

In the space probe’s panoramic photos, Venus’ rocky surface is visible, along with slivers of the atmosphere. reported in 2006 that Mitchell processed and edited these panoramic images in several stages. "To produce the images, Mitchell mixed in special purpose source code, resampling, and other image wizardry, along with knowledge about dimensions of the Venera lander and location of its camera lens," reported.

Mitchell said on his website that he edited the panoramic images using Adobe Photoshop "to produce views that give a better subjective impression of the Venusian surface."

In 2019, Mitchell explained his process on X. He said the original panoramic images were "reprojected into perspective by a custom C++ program." (C++ is a programming language used for software, game and database development.) The images were then assembled in Photoshop, and "missing pieces were filled by duplicates and reversed duplicates," he said.

"So there is a little artistic license … but not very much," Mitchell told in 2006.

Through Mitchell’s photo editing, details not seen in the original Soviet space probe photos were revealed, including distant hills on Venus, reported. 

Mitchell told Agence France-Presse in 2021 that although he created the black-and-white landscape images of Venus, "the colorized images are done by other people."

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims a photo shows the "clearest image ever taken of Venus."

This is not a genuine photo. A researcher constructed a black-and-white version of this photo by editing original space probe images with a programming language and Photoshop. The researcher said someone else colored the photo bright yellow.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook post (archived), April 29, 2024

Reverse-image search using TinEye, May 7, 2024

Mental Landscape, "Soviet Venus Images," accessed May 7, 2024

Donald P. Mitchell’s blog website, accessed May 7, 2024

NASA, "Venus - NASA Science," accessed May 7, 2024

NASA, "Venera 13 Lander Mission Page," July 13, 2015

NASA, "Venus - Venera 13 Lander," Sept. 24, 2015 

NASA, "Venus Venera 13 Lander Color Surface Photos Panorama," accessed May 7, 2024

NASA, "Venus Venera 13 Black and White Surface Photos Panorama," accessed May 7, 2024, "Venera 13 and the Mission to Reach Venus," March 25, 2019, "Old Soviet Images of Venus Yield Fresh Surprises," Sept. 11, 2006

The Planetary Society, "Every picture from Venus' surface, ever," accessed May 7, 2024

Donald P. Mitchell, X post, Aug. 30, 2019

Donald P. Mitchell, X post, March 2, 2020

Agence France-Presse, "This image has been enhanced from a photo of Venus taken by Soviet spacecraft Venera 13," Feb. 9, 2021

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More by Sara Swann

Is this the ‘clearest image’ of planet Venus? No, that photo was altered multiple times

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