Star Wars: Fact or Fiction?

Do you know more about the Milky Way, or a galaxy far, far away? Test your knowledge and discover if you're a Padawan … or a Jedi Master.

More Info / References

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1. Parsec

Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.

In "Star Wars IV: A New Hope," Han Solo boasts that the Millennium Falcon did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. A parsec is a real term used in physics. What is a parsec?

Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.
A parsec is a measure of distance in space. It is named from an abbreviation of the "parallax of one arcsecond." A parsec is equal to about 3.26 light-years (31 trillion kilometers or 19 trillion miles) in length.
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2. Tatooine

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.

A planet with two suns is

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.
Like Luke Skywalker's home world, planets around a pair of stars really exist. The Kepler telescope discovered the first in 2009, nicknaming it "Tatooine." Since then we've discovered many planets with two, and even three stars.
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3. Neighbor

Credit: NASA

"Star Wars" is set in a galaxy far, far away. How far away is our closest galaxy?

Credit: NASA
Our nearest galactic neighbors are the Magellanic Clouds, which include several dwarf galaxies one-millionth the size of the Milky Way. These dwarf galaxies orbit the Milky Way, attracted by the gravity of our large spiral galaxy. Some people might think the Andromeda galaxy is our nearest neighbor, but in fact Andromeda is the closest major galaxy to us. Andromeda and the Milky Way are actually on an eventual collision course with each other. So while the distance is a bummer for intergalactic travel, it's reassuring for our galaxy's immediate future.
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4. Ion Engines

Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.

TIE fighters (Twin Ion Engines) use ion propulsion. This type of propulsion is also used by actual NASA spacecraft.

Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.
NASA's Dawn mission uses ion propulsion, which glows a blue color in its ion engines. Dawn's futuristic, hyper-efficient ion propulsion system allows it to explore targets far into our solar system, like the dwarf planets Ceres and Vesta. (Fun fact: Like TIE fighters, Dawn also has solar panels, which power its ion thrusters. But there the similarities end.) NASA has actually been developing ion propulsion since the 1950s, and the first spacecraft with it– Deep Space 1–launched in 1998. Non-NASA companies, like Boeing, have also launched satellites with ion thrusters, which are in orbit around Earth right now.
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5. Size in Space

Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.

The first Death Star, seen in "Rogue One " and "A New Hope," is the size of

Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.
Though the Death Star is compared to a moon often, it actually is about the size of an average asteroid. Published specs* say that the Death Star's diameter is 75 miles (120 kilometers), which is tiny compared to the size of our own moon (3,476 kilometers). However, Obi-Wan’s comparison to a small moon is accurate–if you compare it to the smallest moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Even a very small moon like Saturn’s Mimas is still twice as large as the Death Star. *Source: "Ultimate Star Wars Guide"
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6. Desert

Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel

Desert planets like Tatooine, Jakku, and Jedha are thought to be

Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel
Desert planets could be everywhere! There are over 3,000 confirmed planets around other stars in our galaxy alone, and astronomers believe that there are billions more awaiting discovery. And desert planets aren't just possible—they're likely. Planets with little to no water abound in the galaxy. In fact, present-day Mars is a desert planet. Whether we find habitable desert planets is a mission for the future.
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7. Hoth

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.

The ice planet Hoth is featured in " Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back." Hoth is also the name of a real planet in our galaxy.

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.
There is a Hoth in our galaxy, though not the same Hoth from "Star Wars" (no invading Imperials, for one). An icy super-Earth discovered in 2006 reminded scientists so much of the frozen Rebel base, they unofficially nicknamed it Hoth. The planet's scientific designation is OGLE 2005-BLG-390L, after the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment that found it.
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8. Death Star

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.

Which of the following Death Star technologies would be possible today?

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.
It is possible today to build a space station, even one the size of the Death Star. NASA engineers say that metal could be mined from an asteroid and the station built entirely in space. But it would require an Earth-wide effort with hundreds of thousands of people and trillions of dollars just to build it, let alone the costs of running it every day.
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9. Asteroid belt

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In "The Empire Strikes Back," the Millennium Falcon dodges asteroids. Could it face a similar peril flying through our asteroid belt?

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The asteroids in our asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, are about 600,000 miles apart, on average. Unlike the asteroids that come hurtling at the crew of the Millennium Falcon, you wouldn't be likely to see two in the same field of view from a spacecraft. At least a dozen NASA spacecraft have passed through the asteroid belt: the Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Ulysses, Galileo, Cassini, Stardust, New Horizons, Rosetta, Dawn, Juno. Dawn has orbited two asteroids and has not needed to dodge any debris (or mynocks). While C-3PO said the chances of navigating an asteroid field were 3,720 to 1, in our solar system the chances of *unsuccessfully* navigating the asteroid belt are something like less than a billion to 1.
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10. Alien

Credit: NASA

NASA is still looking for signs of extraterrestrial life. What chemicals in another planet’s atmosphere are scientists particularly interested in?

Credit: NASA
Living organisms on Earth need water, and they produce methane and oxygen– so you’ll find plenty of all three in Earth’s atmosphere. Each chemical could be found separately in the atmosphere of an exoplanet hostile to life (for example, water has been found on scorching hot Jupiters). But found together, signs of water, methane, and oxygen can be promising. So far we haven't yet found alien life of any kind, either in our solar system or outside it. But the chemical ingredients for life are very common in the universe, and scientists hope to find signs in your lifetime.