Scientists Friday unveiled stunning new images of Venus taken by the Magellan radar mapping probe, including a breathtaking computer movie simulating a low-altitude flight around the tortured slopes of a towering 38,000-foot mountain.

Magellan project manager Anthony Spear said the solar-powered probe has mapped 18 percent of Venus's hidden surface so far, despite a subtle glitch that has knocked the craft out of contact with Earth three times since it slipped into orbit around the cloudy planet Aug. 10.The most recent incident occurred Thursday when Magellan lost contact for 40 minutes. Subsequent work to realign Magellan's dish antenna with Earth resulted in the loss of three orbits of mapping data, but Spear said engineers were pleased with how fast they were able to get the craft back into action.

Scientists on Friday released a variety of spectacular, high-resolution radar images of the planet's tortured surface, including unprecedented shots of Ishtar Terra, an elevated plateau about the size of Australia that rises nearly 10,000 feet above the surrounding countryside.