Random Fact Friday: What links Terry Pratchett with Saturn?

I don’t need to tell you Terry Pratchett was a comic genius and a campaigner for many things that matter. I’ve got a feeling you know that already.

File:Terry Pratchett at Powell's 2007-cropped.jpg
Terry Pratchett (Photo: Robin Zebrowski)
I also don’t need to tell you that he created Discworld, a flat planet carried through space by four elephants who themselves stand on the back of a giant turtle; a turtle who is swimming through space towards, it’s widely believed, a rendezvous with another turtle of romantic inclination.

But perhaps I do need to tell you that we have our very own Discworld in our solar system!

Okay, to be fair, Saturn isn’t as flat as the Discworld is portrayed to be. If Saturn did had water, it wouldn’t be flowing off the edge of the planet as it does on Discworld.

But Discworld is the flattest planet (that we know of) in Terry’s imaginary universe, and while Saturn may not be the flattest planet in our universe, it is the flattest planet in our solar system. Its polar diameter is just 90% of its equatorial diameter, due to its low density and fast rotation (it turns on its axis once every 10 hours and 34 minutes. That’s pretty fast). So it’s not so much flat as… squashed.

Saturn is also the most distant planet that can be seen with the naked eye and it has the most extensive rings of any planet in our system too. It isn’t full of wizards, dwarves, reformed vampires and cantankerous witches – in fact, it’s not capable of supporting life (or not as we know it, Jim).  But its largest moon, Titan, is the only moon in the Solar System to have a substantial atmosphere – and could potentially support life.

 

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