Why does Venus look blue in some spacecraft images?

What is it about this terrestrial world’s atmosphere that gives it its unusual colour?

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Venus - when imaged in ultraviolet wavebands - takes on a blue colour. Image Credit: NASA

Venus – when imaged in ultraviolet wavebands – takes on a blue colour. Image Credit: NASA

Asked by Harriet Dean

It’s all thanks to the filters, which spacecraft use to image this planet. Some of the most famous images of Venus make the second planet from the Sun appear blue. However, we know that Venus actually appears mainly yellow-white to the naked eye. This blue tinting observed in some photos is as a result of the filters the cameras have used to take the image.

Mariner 10, for example, was a 1973 NASA mission to fly by Mercury and Venus in order to better understand these worlds. The blue images of Venus that were beamed back were taken with an ultraviolet filter making the planet appear blue, and then these were further enhanced to bring out the details of Venus’s atmosphere, leading to an even bluer hue.

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