What a statement: "We probably have a better global map of Venus now than we have of Earth, because most of the ocean basins on Earth are so poorly mapped." That's from Dr. Stephen Saunders, chief scientist on the Magellan project, which is surveying Earth's nearest neighbor by radar.
The first pictures from that radar imaging experiment, 14 months in the making, are stunning: Five-mile-high Maat Mons, only the second highest peak on the planet, surrounded by lava flows. Two-mile Gula Mons, small by Venusian standards, dominating a plain on which is stamped Crater Cunitz, named for astronomer Maria Cunitz. Deep, twisty channels up to 4,200 miles long on the surface of the planet.
The Magellan spacecraft has mapped 92 percent of Venus' surface. It is already halfway through another sweep from a different angle. That may help clear up questions created by the latest pictures, or it may lead to still more questions.