Cassini Surveys the Dunes of Xanadu on Titan

Article written: 10 Aug , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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The name “Xanadu” just sounds exotic and enticing, and given that this region on Titan is right next to Shangri-la, how can we not be intrigued by the latest radar image of this region taken by the Cassini spacecraft? While Titan itself is shrouded in mystery with its thick, hazy atmosphere, via radar, Cassini can peer through and has found three major surface features: dunes, craters and the enigmatic Xanadu, a bright continent-sized feature centered near the moon’s equator. At upper right is the crater Ksa, first seen by Cassini in 2006. The dark lines running among Xanadu and Ksa are linear dunes, similar to sand dunes on Earth in Egypt and Namibia. In addition to the dunes, look closely at Xanadu to see hills, rivers and valleys which scientists believe are carved in ice rather than solid ground, by liquid methane or ethane.

This image was taken by Cassini’s Titan Radar Mapper on June 21, 2011.

Source: JPL

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5 Responses

  1. r silvetti says

    ‘To seek the sacred river Alph
    To walk the caves of ice
    To break my fast on honeydew
    And drink the milk of Paradise…’

  2. Those are Olivia Newton-John’s roller skate tracks.

  3. Member
    IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

    The name “Xanadu” just sounds exotic and enticing, and given that this region on Titan is right next to Shangri-la, how can we not be intrigued by the latest radar image of this region taken by the Cassini spacecraft?

    Sounds to this skeptic like typical real-estate agent euphemism – such as “Greenland”.

  4. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
    A stately pleasure-dome decree:
    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
    Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.

    So twice five miles of fertile ground
    With walls and towers were girdled round:
    And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
    Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
    And here were forests ancient as the hills,
    Enfolding sunny spots of greenery…..

    It was a miracle of rare device,
    A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

    ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1797

    The name makes more sense when you read the poem…

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