If you weren’t already aware, May 4th is Star Wars day. So in honor of the Star Wars we are going to help you be prepared for possibly running into a Death Star. It’s happened to all of us at some point or another. You’re chasing an imperial fighter you are worried has identified you and you notice what looks like a small moon. But in this day and age of subterfuge and super weapons how can you be sure that what you are looking at isn’t a giant space station? Here are 10 ways to help decide.
1. Does what you’re looking at have a Superlaser?
While big enough to house their own civilizations, space stations the size of moons are really only there to be a platforms for world destroying super lasers. So if the thing in front of you has one, you’re looking at a space station. What you are looking for is a massive lens, known as the eye, with 8-12 tributary lasers, built around a synthetic focusing crystal. Anything shy of that and you aren’t looking at a full blown Death Star.
2. What’s in the trenches?
Yes, moons often have long deep trenches and so do death stars. The primary difference is that the Death Star’s trenches will form straight concentric circles parallel with the equator. Moon trenches will be more sporadic like Earth’s Grand Canyon and are usually naturally formed from erosion or plate tectonics. You can also look inside the trenches. A moon will just have rocky or icy formations, whereas a space station will have landing bays, drive thrusters, sensor arrays, tractor beam systems and of course, mind-blowingly undefended exhaust ports.
3. Has that “moon” always been there?
If you are in a familiar area of space when you encounter the astral body in question, and you could have sworn there wasn’t a moon there before, then you are probably looking at a space station. Moons orbit planets in regular patterns defined by their relative mass and inertial trajectory. Space stations like the Death Star have ion engines that convert reactor power into thrust and they can go as they please.
4. Is there life on that mystery object?
There is a big debate about how many people live on a Death Star. We assume it takes at least 1 million workers, clones, and aliens just to keep it operational, and this is the number reported by the rebel alliance after the battle of Yavin. The Empire says that there were closer to 800 million at the time, and that the rebels’ conservative estimate was just a way to minimize the atrocity of what they had done. There’s some debate as to whether or not moons like Jupiter’s Europa can harbor simple single-celled life, but either way, most moons are definitely not inhabitable by people. So if you see people, chances are they’re actually living on a space station.
5. Are there thermal exhaust ports you could shoot a proton torpedo down?
This is actually a trick question. If the answer is yes, then you are looking at a first generation Death Star, and you know exactly how to blow it out of orbit. If you don’t see thermal exhaust ports, you’re not out of the woods yet, though, as this fatal design flaw was fixed in the second Death Star. Moons may also vent thermal heat into space through holes in the crust–but those holes are called volcanoes.
6. Did you come out of hyperspace at a planet only to find an asteroid field that’s not supposed to be there?
If so, then I am sorry to say your home planet was blown up by a Death Star type space station and its giant Superlaser. You should probably get the hell out of there as fast as possible because the perpetrators could still be waiting in ambush.
7. What’s on the surface?
The surface of a moon has a lot of irregular geological formations, including: craters, Maria (sloidified lave formations), highlands (typically igneous rock), etc. The surface of a space station will usually resemble a bustling metropolis, with lots of buildings. Scattered among these buildings are literally thousands of laser and ion cannons, as well as anywhere between 600 and 1,000 tractor beam projectors.
8. Gravity or Tractor Beam?
If your space craft experiences a slight attraction caused simply by gravity then it is a moon. If you are inescapably drawn in by a shaft of blue light, then you are stuck in a tractor beam and about to see in person the harsh realities of space station life.
9. Are you in possession of stolen plans?
Space stations are incredibly complex, difficult to build and a monument to modern technology, knowhow and ingenuity. The Original Death Star took nearly 17 years to build, once the plans were in place. Moons are the result of immense astrological events; they take no planning and thus have no plans. If you or someone in your spaceship is in possession of stolen plans for the thing you are looking at, it is most definitely a space station.
10. What does the force tell you?
The easiest way to tell if “that’s a space station or a moon” is to always travel with a Jedi Knight. The first time the Death Star was discovered, Obi Wan saw right through the Imperial tricks proclaiming, “That’s no moon: It’s a space station.” Don’t have a resident Jedi Knight on board? Then you’d better revert back to steps 1 through 9 on the list and pray that you are looking at a moon, because going up against the Death Star without Jedi support is suicide!
Happy Birthday Star Wars! May the Fourth be with you!