While the Star Wars universe is an endless source of entertainment and thrilling narrative offshoots, it’s a little lacking in the “hard science” department. To lend a veneer of real physics governing the galaxy far far away, here’s a “scientifically accurate” take on the Death Star’s superlaser. Although while this Death Star superlaser’s a lot more realistic than the original, it’s not nearly as visually striking. In a few different senses.
Geeks Are Sexy picked up on the above take on a scientifically accurate Death Star superlaser, which VFX and animation artist Wyatt Hall created. Hall teamed up with YouTuber and Star Wars aficionado EckhartsLadder to make the video; the latest on the latter’s channel to explore one aspect or another from the classic space opera.
In the video Hall manipulates a clip from Episode VI. One in which the Death Star annihilates a fleet of Rebel ships with its superlaser. In the original Star Wars movie, according to the lore, the Death Star utilized eight kyber crystals placed in a ring to create its superlaser. The Death Star focused the eight energized crystals onto a single “focusing lens” at the center of the Imperial battle station, which consequently turned the individual beams into one superlaser that could fire out into space and explode things. (The version of the Death Star in Episode VI had a slightly different setup than this, but followed the same basic concept.)
Hall’s version of the Death Star, on the other hand, uses eight individual IRL laser weapons. Unfortunately, the exact physical underpinnings behind Watt’s version of the Death Star’s superlaser are unclear. However, if we take a look at say, the AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System aboard the USS Ponce, we can develop a loose theory.
The AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon, which is still operational(!), uses pulses of laser light to blow stuff up. (Really.) In this video on YouTube the US Navy shows how the laser weapon works; deploying a high-energy infrared beam from a solid-state laser to blow objects to smithereens. Like the Death Star’s laser, the AN/SEQ-3 is powerful, but it offers no green lasers. Or—nearly—any type of visual light whatsoever that’d let us know the weapon’s active.
Accordingly, viewers cannot see Hall’s IRL Death Star superlaser in action à la the original films. Instead, we only see some flashes of green laser light focused onto a central mirror, and then Rebel ships exploding in space. The whole firing sequence is, of course, not as fantastical as the original. Although there is a split-second where we get to see the superlaser focus on one particular target, which is cool.
Despite the fact Hall’s Death Star superlaser isn’t as cinematic as the “real” thing, it’s just as frightening. Partially because it’s freaky to think that such a powerful weapon would be invisible until the destruction was done. And because it’s easy to imagine beefing up the AN/SEQ-3 to make something the Empire would love to use.