Venus: Maxwell Montes
David P. Anderson
Southern Methodist University

This picture of Maxwell Montes first appeared in the December 1993 issue of Discover Magazine. These are the tallest mountains in the solar system, over 11 kilometers from the plain to the highest peak. This image was created from altimetry and radar data returned by the NASA Magellan mission to Venus. It is unique among the computer rendered 3-D images of Venus in that it uses no vertical exaggeration. That is, the mountain heights have not been exaggerated to make the features more pronounced and easier to distinguish. The view of Maxwell is rendered from a point 35,000 feet above the highest peak, about the perspective one might see out the window of an airplane flying over the Venus surface.

The surface detail was created in the Southern Methodist University Geophysical Imaging Laboratory using a technique developed at SMU for retrieving fine-scale topographic features from radar reflectivity. The color scheme is derived from the radar patterns and basaltic composition of the rocks. The clouds are computer generated to give a sense of size and depth to this enormous mountain range. The purple-ish haze was rendered in order to suggest the 900 degree temperatures common on the surface of Venus.

This image is now featured at the Smithsonian Museum permanent display of the Solar System on the National Mall in Washington DC.