Feeds

Cassini finds land on Titan

An Oz-sized continent called Xanadu?

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

New radar images sent back from the Cassini spacecraft have revealed an Australia-sized land mass on Saturn's moon, Titan. The continent is in a region known as Xanadu, but readers are asked to kindly refrain from any Olivia Newton-John references.

The Xanadu region had been observed before the Cassini mission. It was snapped in 1994 by the Hubble Space Telescope's infrared camera, but astronomers could only make it out as an unusually bright spot on the moon's surface.

Now it transpires that the region is riddled with geological features very reminiscent of Earth. The surface has been shaped by weather - winds, rain and a flowing liquid, most likely liquid ethane or methane.

The researchers have identified dark sand dunes, river networks, hills and valleys. The land mass has a prominent crater, which may have been caused by the impact of an asteroid, or possibly by water vulcanism. The region also boasts a range mountains reaching over 5,000 feet.

"We could only speculate about the nature of this mysterious bright country, too far from us for details to be revealed by Earth-based and space-based telescopes. Now, under Cassini's powerful radar eyes, facts are replacing speculation," said Dr Jonathan Lunine, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Most notable, though, is the absence of the organic dirt that covers most of the rest of the moon's surface.

"Xanadu has been washed clean," says Steve Wall, the Cassini radar team's deputy leader. "What is left underneath looks like very porous water ice, maybe filled with caverns."

Cassini's will next fly by Titan on Saturday 22 July. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.