Xanadu (Titan)

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Titan_globe.jpg
Xanadu is the bright area at the centre-right of this image

Xanadu (often called "Xanadu Regio", though this is not its official name) is a highly reflective area of Saturn's moon Titan. Its name comes from Xanadu, the legendary palace described in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan.

The feature was first identified in 1994 by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope at infrared wavelengths, and has recently been imaged in more detail by the Cassini space probe. Xanadu is about the size of Australia. It is not yet certain whether it is a mountain range, a flat plain, an ocean, or something else, and it is hoped that analysis of data from Cassini will help to answer these questions.

Recent images by Cassini during encounters in October and December 2004 reveal complex albedo patterns in the western portion of Xanadu. While scientists are still debating the significance and cause of the albedo patterns, one likely culprit is tectonism. Evidence for this exists in a pattern of criss-crossing dark lineaments near the western side of Xanadu. Scientists are also investigating the boundary between Xanadu and the unnamed dark region to the west. The shape of the boundary suggests that the dark material embays the bright terrain.

References

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