• The Truth About the "Endor Holocaust"


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    • Abstract: Provides support for wormhole described in The Glove of Darth Vader (1992) and referenced in " ... "Darth-Wong," for pointing out the cockpit interior images of Tyderium ...

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Curtis Saxton Endor Holocaust Gary M. Sarli the Star Wars Technical Commentaries website Darth Vader Sector Star Wars Gamer The Truth about the “Endor Holocaust”
by Gary M. Sarli
Introduction
At the Star Wars Technical Commentaries website, author Curtis Saxton makes the claim that because of the size
of the Second Death Star (DS2) and its distance to Endor, the destruction of the DS2 would have devastated Endor
and caused mass extinctions. He calls this theory the “Endor Holocaust”, and he claims that it is the direct result of
canonical evidence as seen on film in Return of the Jedi. As I will show in this detailed rebuttal, his conclusions are
not supported by the canonical evidence. The “Endor Holocaust” could not have happened.
Revision History:
May 31, 2004: First publication.
June 9, 2004: Corrected size of shuttle to match movie blueprints. Changed orbit of DS2 to account for
cockpit views from Tyderium and reverse-angle view of Vader’s shuttle on approach to DS2. Added
“Implosion” section to explain the deceleration of Death Star’s debris in seconds after explosion.
Provides support for wormhole described in The Glove of Darth Vader (1992) and referenced in
“Endor and the Moddell Sector” (Star Wars Gamer #9, 2002) and Star Wars Insider #76 (2003).
Expanded Appendix to explain different uses for trigonometric analysis of photographs, particularly
extrapolating angular widths of objects that are partially off-screen and calculating the distance to
spherical objects.
August 10, 2004: Introduced new and higher-quality screen shots to gather more accurate data. Added
sections on continuity and standards of evidence. Added expected margin of error (±2 pixels and/or
±0.5°) for all direct measurements, creating a consistent standard for accepting or rejecting official
material.
Special Thanks:
• Curtis Saxton, for putting so much effort into such an interesting puzzle.
• R.S. Anderson, for suggesting some illustrations and providing highly useful images and
feedback.
• “Darth Lodz,” for pointing out the correct shuttle measurements.
• “Darth-Wong,” for pointing out the cockpit interior images of Tyderium and the reverse-angle
shot of Vader’s shuttle on approach that made the original calculated orbit (from the “Falcon
Approaching” shot) impossible.
• Everyone who posted comments on this article on the various Star Wars message boards, for
applying a critical eye and providing invaluable feedback.
… and, of course …
• George Lucas, for coming up with this universe in the first place.
Comments and Feedback
All discussion on this article should be posted here. The author may be contacted here.
Continuity
Before going into a detailed analysis, it is important to establish the parameters of this discussion. Saxton
discusses this subject in great detail in Continuity, Canon, and Apocrypha: “The STAR WARS films are the only
primary reference. With the exception of only a few minor points, they are indisputable. This is not a merely
personal opinion; it is the explicit policy of the Continuity and Production Editors at Lucasfilm.... Therefore the
films and their adaptations are canon, meaning that they take precedence in essentially all matters. Any other
form of unfilmed STAR WARS fiction may be official, meaning that it is subordinate to canon and is required to be
consistent with other official works.” This is the fundamental standard for all discussion of Star Wars continuity,
and I adhere to it within this article.
What do you do in the event of a dispute between canon and official material? Saxton addresses this as
well: “Only reject existing material where absolutely necessary. Story elements must have genuine
continuity problems to justify discarding them; material shan't be thrown away simply because many people hold it
to be repugnant or embarassing [sic]. The STAR WARS Holiday Special is a prime example. If a source is
uncomfortable or incongruent at face value, it is often possible to add background circumstances to alter its
significance and give a more realistic perspective.” [emphasis added] Of course, this does leave the definition of
The Truth about the “Endor Holocaust,” © 2004 SWRPGNetwork (Author: Gary M. Sarli) page 1 of 18
“absolutely necessary” open to interpretation; I address this issue and attempt to establish a standard of
rejection in the following section.
Standard of Rejection
At what point is it “absolutely necessary” to reject official material? In the case of descriptive material (e.g., “How
big is a star destroyer?”), the following standard is used:
• If the official descriptive material does not fall within the expected margin of error for data collected
from canonical sources, the official descriptive material is rejected; if not, then,
• If the official descriptive material is contradicted by newer official descriptive material (at least 2 years
more recent, to account for the time lag between concept, writing, editing, and publication; however,
errata, second printings, and so forth are always considered “newer”), the older official descriptive
material is rejected; if not, then,
• If the official descriptive material is contradicted by a majority of official descriptive material, the minority
official descriptive material is rejected; if not, then,
• If the official descriptive material is contradicted by higher-ranking official descriptive material, using the
following ranking –
1. Film novelizations and radio dramas;
2. Materials set during the time frame spanned by the original trilogy (Episodes IV – VI) or the
prequel trilogy (Episodes I – III);
3. Materials set in the time frame between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy (i.e., after
Episode III but before Episode IV);
4. Materials set before the prequel trilogy or after the original trilogy (i.e., before Episode I or after
Episode VI);
– the lower-ranking official descriptive material is rejected; if not, then,
• The official descriptive material is accepted.
The expected margin of error is defined using the following assumptions: 1) All dimensional measurements of
screen shots are expected to be accurate within ± 2 pixels (i.e., each end of an object is probably over- or
underestimated by no more than 1 pixel), and 2) all angular measurements of screen shots are expected to be
accurate within ± 0.5°. Given this, the minimum and maximum values for each measurement are calculated. If
an official measurement falls within this range, it is accepted; however, if an official measurement falls outside this
range, it is rejected. In the case of quantitative analysis (i.e., statistics), the scientific standard of a 95%
confidence interval is used. If an official measurement falls within this 95% confidence interval, it is accepted;
otherwise, it is rejected.
In the case of conceptual material (e.g., “How does a lightsaber work?”), the following standard is used:
• If the official conceptual material is specifically contradicted by canon, the official descriptive material is
rejected; if not then,
• If the official conceptual material is contradicted by newer official conceptual material (at least 2 years
more recent, to account for the time lag between concept, writing, editing, and publication; however,
errata, second printings, and so forth are always considered “newer”), the older official conceptual
material is rejected; if not, then,
• If the official conceptual material is contradicted by a majority of official conceptual material, the minority
official conceptual material is rejected; if not, then,
• If the official conceptual material is contradicted by more parsimonious (i.e., less complicated and/or
requiring fewer assumptions) official conceptual material, the less parsimonious official conceptual
material is rejected; if not, then,
• If the official conceptual material is contradicted by higher-ranking official conceptual material, using the
following ranking –
o Film novelizations and radio dramas;
o Materials set during the time frame spanned by the original trilogy (Episodes IV – VI) or the
prequel trilogy (Episodes I – III);
o Materials set in the time frame between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy (i.e., after
Episode III but before Episode IV);
o Materials set before the prequel trilogy or after the original trilogy (i.e., before Episode I or after
Episode VI);
– the lower-ranking official conceptual material is rejected; if not, then,
• The official conceptual material is accepted.
In the case of rejected official conceptual material, it is often possible to explain apparent contradictions. For
example, The Phantom Menace established that there are only two Sith at any one time, but Tales of the Jedi
comics (set thousands of years before the movies) contradict this. The explanation of this is that there were two
different groups known as the Sith, with the older being an actual civilization (and, later, an empire), while the
newer is more like a cult of renegade Jedi, inspired by ancient Sith lore. (This, in turn, became the official
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explanation in later publications such as the Dark Side Sourcebook; for additional examples, see Saxton’s
Continuity, Canon, and Apocrypha). When explaining such a contradiction in this manner, the argument is
evaluated in terms of its parsimony; if a given explanation stretches the bounds of possibility too far, it must be
rejected. Ultimately, however, this is a matter of subjective evaluation unless and until official material appears to
explain the contradiction.
Given these rules, I can consistently determine whether any given official material should be rejected or
accepted. If official material is accepted, it will be treated as true and correct for all purposes throughout the
remainder of the article. For example, if analysis of canonical evidence yielded a calculated length of 6.2 meters
for a TIE fighter, and the expected margin of error was 5.9 – 6.7 meters, then the official length of a TIE fighter
(6.3 meters) would be accepted because it is within the margin of error; therefore, if I had further calculations
using the size of a TIE fighter, I would use the official 6.3-meter length. This is the methodology used throughout
this article.
After the Battle of Endor
Canonical and Official Sources
What is the fate of Endor according to canonical and official sources? The following is a brief list of the available
information – sources are listed in the order of precedence, starting with canon and then showing official sources
starting with the most recent:
Return of the Jedi: The film itself only shows the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Endor. There is
clearly enough time between the destruction of the Death Star and the celebration at Bright Tree Village (the Ewok
settlement shown in the film) that word of the Emperor’s death had spread all the way to Coruscant, Bespin, and
Tatooine, so there was at least a gap of an hour or two, and quite possibly considerably more. Furthermore, it is
daytime during the battle on the surface of Endor (judging from visible shadows, it was probably no later than late
afternoon at the end of the battle), but during the celebration it is nighttime – stars are visible in the sky while
Rebel fighters are launching fireworks. Therefore, we can conclude that no catastrophic damage was inflicted
anywhere near Bright Tree Village in the few hours after the DS2’s destruction. [Note: This does not rule out the
possibility of an irreversible ecological disaster whose effects would not be visible for several hours, days, or
weeks.] This source does provide the only on-screen evidence for the size and proximity of the DS2; this allows
some calculation of what, if any, debris would have hit Endor after the DS2’s destruction – this will be the subject
of the majority of this article.
Star Wars Insider #76: The question of the Endor Holocaust was directly addressed in a Q&A column by
Pablo Hidalgo. The complete text is reproduced below:
Q: I read somewhere that Endor suffers an immense cataclysm after the destruction of the Death Star,
and all the Ewoks are killed. Is this true?
A: Don't buy into anti-Ewok propaganda. It sounds like the Empire's behind that particular rumor.
Though many learned scholars and students of physics have micro-examined the Star Wars films
for scientific accuracy and have come away with an entertaining degree of consistency, in some cases,
science has to be thrown out the window. Armchair physicists have to look away when a screaming TIE
fighter passes through the vacuum of space, when a particularly volatile explosion combusts in an airless
void, or when giant yellow letters inexplicable to the known rules of the universe float lazily into infinity.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's only a movie.
And it's a movie with a happy ending. Though there are undoubtedly any number of physical
models that would indicate that the detonation of a moon-sized object in the upper atmosphere of a forest
planetoid would wreak untold havoc on the local ecology, that's not what happens. It was George Lucas'
intent that the fuzzy little Ewoks and their Rebel friends lived happily ever after, and nuclear winters don't
fit into his model.
But there is a pseudorational explanation -- from an unlikely source: In The Glove of Darth
Vader, a children's book published in the early 1990s, is a description of a wormhole that opened up
during the Death Star's fiery demise and sucked debris -- including Darth Vader's indestructible glove
(yeah, you read that correctly) -- all the way across the galaxy to the planet Mon Calamari.
If we accept the hazy rules of hypermatter quasi-physics and plot-convenient wormhole, then
surely suggesting that the worst of the Death Star fallout also got sucked out into hyperspace isn't too
much of a stretch. [emphasis added]
“Endor and the Moddell Sector,” Star Wars Gamer #10: This article, the most comprehensive single
source on Endor, its star system, and the other systems in the sector, directly addresses the fate of Endor after the
DS2’s destruction:
The explosion of the second Death Star filled the Forest Moon’s orbit with thousands of tons of debris,
ranging from pebble-sized bits to 100-meter sections of the space station. While a few chunks fell onto
the Forest Moon, the satellite was spared any significant environmental damage. [35, emphasis added]
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Furthermore, it describes a black hole near the Endor system:
The Endor Gate is a black hole located several light years off the hyperspace route between Endor and
Sanyassa. Since it isn’t especially large and is well-charted, it shouldn’t pose a danger to a competent
starship captain. However, spacer’s tales tell of strange things happening on the space lanes near the
Endor Gate – most notably ships found drifting whose captains swear they were traveling on the other
side of the galaxy before their systems went dead. Cynics note that for all the outlandish tales, none
account for any independent ships weeks late on a run. [36-37, emphasis added]
The sidebar at the end of this article includes the following note on sources:
The Glove of Darth Vader, Paul and Hollace Davids, Bantam Skylark 1992. How did the glove of Darth
Vader wind up on Mon Calamari? Musings on the nature of hyperspatial anomalies provided the
background for the Endor Gate in this article. [41]
This book is discussed later in this section.
X-Wing: Wedge’s Gamble: While touring the Galactic Museum on Coruscant, Wedge Antilles and
members of Rogue Squadron encounter some stuffed Ewok specimens. They are described as having been made
extinct on their native world through the actions of the Rebel Alliance. [Note: This is the only secondary evidence
that could be interpreted as supporting the Endor Holocaust; however, it can just as easily be interpreted as
Imperial propaganda.]
The Truce at Bakura: The Rebels are shown staying at Endor for at least the next day after the battle
and destruction of the DS2. At this point, there is still no significant observable environmental damage.
Dark Apprentice: Kyp Durron visits the location of Darth Vader’s funeral pyre approximately seven
years after the Battle of Endor. Trees, forest, twigs and dead leaves, underbrush, one live Gorax, and a handful of
live Ewoks huddles in their homes are described, but no mention of environmental disaster is made. [Source:
Saxton; Note: Saxton notes that the trees and forest are never specifically described as being alive, and he also
hypothesizes that Durron’s recent turn to the dark side may have been clouding his perceptions.]
The Glove of Darth Vader: As described above, the glove of Darth Vader was discovered in some debris
of the DS2 in the oceans of Mon Calamari. It is theorized within the book that a wormhole was somehow created
during the explosion of the DS2, drawing debris across the galaxy to the Mon Calamari system – the debris
containing Darth Vader’s glove ended up on a trajectory that led it to enter the Mon Calamari atmosphere and land
in the ocean. [Note: Although it sounds far-fetched, the survival of significant chunks of debris through reentry
and surface impact is quite plausible given the real-world debris observed from Skylab, Mir, and the Columbia
tragedy.]
Dark Force Rising: Leia travels to orbit around Endor, but does not visit the surface. Endor is perceived
to be “lush” and “green” – no mention is made of any ecological disaster, past or present. [Note: Saxton suggests
that the green color could be interpreted as algae or lichens that have survived after the disaster.]
Star Wars (Marvel Comics Series): Late in the series (c.1984-1985), the Rebels are shown using
Endor as a base of operations for some time after the DS2’s destruction. Again, no evidence of any environmental
disaster is shown.
Thus, we see that 1) the canon does not show any environmental effects for at least the few hours after
the battle, 2) George Lucas’ intent for the Ewoks is specifically described as living “happily ever after,” 3) Endor is
specifically described as suffering no “significant environmental damage,” 4) a wormhole is described that pulled at
least some (or, as Insider suggests, most) of the debris to the other side of the Galaxy, providing an explanation of
Endor’s survival, 5) the few times that post-DS2 Endor is directly shown, no evidence to the contrary appears, and
6) the only evidence that could be interpreted as being in opposition to #1-#5 does not actually show Endor itself
and therefore appears to be Imperial propaganda.
Saxton argues that this is all contradicted by the canon itself – clearly, however, the burden of proof is on
him because of the wide variety of official material that specifically and indirectly contradicts his position. His
argument is outlined below, and readers are encouraged to read his article in its entirety.
Outline of “Endor Holocaust” Theory
How, exactly, does Saxton reach the conclusion that the destruction of the DS2 spelled certain doom for the
Ewoks?
1. He calculates the size of the DS2, using these sources as evidence:
a. The size of the equatorial trench
b. Concept art (not canonical)
c. Interviews (not canonical)
d. Matte paintings (only canonical if a given portion appears on film)
e. “Astrophysical considerations,” specifically the minimum size of Endor and the relative size of the
DS2
f. Conclusion: DS2 is between 800 km and 920 km in diameter.
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2. He estimates the minimum size of Endor, given what is known about planets, moons, and the necessary
preconditions for Endor to support Earth-like gravity and a breathable atmosphere.
a. Ewok gliders appear not to have enough lift to operate under Earth’s normal gravity (1g).
b. Endor therefore has slightly less than 1g gravity, around 0.8g.
c. Anything less would start to be visually apparent (e.g., things would fall slower, people would hop
instead of running, etc.)
d. Endor has a planetary density approximately equal to Earth’s (5.5 g/cm3). (assumption)
e. Conclusion: Endor’s radius is no less than 5,200 km (diameter = 10,400 km).
3. He calculates the distance between the DS2 and Endor, using the following evidence:
a. Screen shot from the bridge of Home One shortly after exiting hyperspace, showing entire profile
of both DS2 and Endor.
b. Screen shots of holographic tactical display onboard Home One.
c. Other screen shots showing DS2 over Endor. (Note: No specific image is referenced here.)
d. Conclusion: DS2 is only 2,000 km above the surface of Endor.
4. Given this, he estimates the environmental impact of the DS2 explosion:
a. Given the apparent speed of the explosion (i.e., well in excess of escape velocity), all fragments
not propelled directly toward Endor will not endanger the planet.
b. Given the size and distance of Endor, 15.4% of DS2’s mass will hit the surface.
i. “At least thirty” large chunks (i.e., “multi-kilometre” in size) are visible after explosion
– these are large enough to cause extinction-level events (e.g., the asteroid that killed
the dinosaurs)
ii. The remainder of the mass is vaporized, entering the atmosphere as “soot”
1. That much mass would create a layer “a few dozen meters” deep over the
entire planet, so even if the large impacts are avoided, the planet is doomed.
c. The possibility of an “implosion,” suggested by some readers and presumably required for any
wormhole, is dismissed as not being empirically supported (i.e., Saxton finds no canonical
evidence suggesting that such an event could have taken place) – he does not show his specific
calculations or evidence, however. Saxton concludes no mitigating factors could have saved
Endor from environmental catastrophe and mass extinctions.
5. Saxton’s conclusion: “The mass-extinction event at Endor is an inevitable physical consequence of the
circumstances at the end of Return of the Jedi. As such, it indirectly enjoys canonical status, even
though it was not clearly portrayed in the film.” [bold emphasis added] He further adds: “Avoiding the
Endor Holocaust is completely impossible. It is an inevitable consequence of observable facts of the Return
of the Jedi film. Endor is a depopulated wasteland.”
Saxton’s argument is primarily dependent on the following two calculations: 1) The size of the DS2, which itself can
be used to calculate its proximity to Endor and the amount of debris that would strike Endor, and 2) the
characteristics of the DS2 explosion, including the velocity of its debris and any potential acceleration or
deceleration. If the first is incorrect, the amount of debris striking or landing on Endor may be considerably
smaller, thereby reducing the magnitude of any environmental impact. If the second is incorrect, the amount of
debris escaping a possible implosion may also be considerably smaller. In the following section, I will address this
first issue and attempt to verify his calculated size of 900 km and orbit of 2,000 km altitude for the DS2.
Saxton’s Size and Orbit for the Second Death Star
In Appendix 1, Appendix 2, and Appendix 3, I outline my methodology for calculating the size and distance of
objects given a photographic image. In brief, a screen shot can be analyzed to determine the angular width of a
given object; this, in turn, allows the size or distance of an object to be calculated. (If you know either the size or
distance, you can calculate the other value; if you have neither the size nor distance, you can still calculate the
proportion of size to distance.) Using this methodology, I will compare Saxton’s calculated diameter of 900 km and
orbit of 2,000 km altitude to screen shots from the movie. In all cases (and throughout the entire article), I accept
Saxton’s size of 5,200 km radius (10,400 km diameter) for Endor. Distances are measured to the center of the
DS2 and Endor unless stated otherwise.
“Death Star Over Endor” (Source: Saxton)
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Calculated Distance to Endor (86.12°): 7,616.1 km
Calculated Distance to DS2 (21.71°): 2,389.5 km (using 900 km diameter)
Calculated Orbit: 892.7 km altitude
Conclusion: Does not match Saxton’s calculations.
“Falcon Approaching Endor” (Source: R.S. Anderson)
Calculated Distance to Endor (14.48°): 41,261.6 km
Calculated Distance to DS2 (1.66°): 31,065.1 km (using 900 km diameter)
Calculated Orbit: 4,996.5 km altitude
Conclusion: Does not match Saxton’s calculations.
“Death Star Holo #1” (Source: Original)
(Note: Using this requires the assumption that the holographic display is to scale.)
Calculated Virtual Distance to Endor (23.97°): 25,041.5 km
Calculated Virtual Orbit (5.69°): 2,541.7 km (side view allows angular width of orbit to be compared to angular
width of Endor)
Calculated Virtual Size of DS2 (2.01°): 880.8 km diameter
Conclusion: Consistent with Saxton’s calculations (i.e., less than 10% error on orbital radius and diameter of DS2)
“Death Star Holo #2” (Source: Original)
(Note: Using this requires the assumption that the holographic display is to scale.)
Calculated Virtual Distance to Endor (50.56°): 12,176.8 km
Calculated Virtual Orbit (19.86°): 3,855.2 km (side view allows angular width of orbit to be compared to angular
width of Endor)
Calculated Virtual Size of DS2 (9.93°): 2,019.3 km diameter
Conclusion: Does not match Saxton’s calculations.
Conclusion on Saxton’s Calculations
Only one of these four images, “Death Star Holo #1,” seems to match Saxton’s size of 900 km diameter and orbit
of 2,000 km altitude. No “live” shots match his calculations. Furthermore, the holographic display itself cannot be
considered to be to scale: “Death Star Holo #2” shows an orbit approximately 17% larger, while the DS2 itself is
now 129% larger. Clearly, these two holo images cannot both be to scale, and there is no way to know if either is
intended to be to scale. (This does make sense, though: The briefing seemed to be used to give everyone the “big
picture” – specific tactical considerations such as sector assignments, formations, attack vectors, and so forth were
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not discussed, so there would be no need for the holographic display to be to scale. Specific assignments along
with more useful details would probably have been handed out by individual squadron commanders or ship
captains in individual unit briefings.)
Therefore, the only image that supports Saxton’s conclusions must itself be rejected as a reliable source of
information. In the following section, I will calculate the apparent size of the DS2 using canonical sources,
compare them with official sources to determine which, if any, can be accepted, and then determine the correct
orbit of the DS2.
The Size and Orbit of the Second Death Star
In this section, I calculate the size and orbit of the DS2 using canonical sources only. Using this data, I can
calculate the upper limit of debris that can reach the surface of Endor itself in the following section.
Hangar Bay, Waistband Trench, and the Size of the Second Death Star
Saxton explains his methodology for determining his “lower limit” for the size of the DS2, so I will quote him
directly:
The equatorial "waistband" trench of the Death Star II can be compared to the diameter of the whole
battle station in photographs taken from astronomical distances. The local area around the docking bays
used by the Emperor and Lord Vader can be measured approximately by scaling the shuttle with
surrounding features. (The height of a landed shuttle is approximately 23m.) This local area appears to be
somewhere inside the waistband trench; which enables us to calculate a lower limit on the size of the
Death Star II.
A detailed image of the whole battle station appears in The Art of Star Wars: Episode VI. In this large scan
[“Death Star – Large”], the polar diameter is 1682 pixels, the equatorial diameter is 1686 pixels and the
height of the equatorial trench is 11 pixels (in the well illuminated region near the middle of the picture).
That means that the diameter of the Death Star II is about 153±7 times the width of the waistband
trench, whatever that may be.
The height of Lord Vader's hangar can be determined from images taken during Luke's escape. In this
image [“Shuttle Escape”] the shuttle is about 85 pixels high (extrapolating the additional height of landing
gear), and the bay aperture is about 244 pixels high. According to published blueprints, the shuttle is
about 22.25m high, and therefore the hangar aperture is 64m high. (Similarly the width of the aperture is
approximately 237/42 times the shuttle's closed wingspan, according to this image [“Shuttle Landing”]
taken when the shuttle was exactly at the entrance.)
Vader's is the smallest hangar in the vicinity. The Emperor's is 62/18 times higher. The bays are all set
back into a rectangular notch, which itself is within a deep notch in the hull of the station. Neglecting the
displacement of the hangars away from camera, this image [“Death Star Landing Bays”] shows that the
inner and outer notches are respectively 260/18 and 501/18 times the height of Vader's hangar, or
approxoimately [sic] 0.92km and 1.8km.
The outer notch cannot be higher than the total height of the equatorial trench. If it were itself the
equatorial trench then the entire battle station would have a diameter of about 270km.
As Saxton notes, his calculations are made without accounting for “the displacement of the hangars away from the
camera.” In this section, I correct this by taking relative size into consideration during my calculations.
Furthermore, instead of Saxton’s “Death Star – Large” image, I use a shot taken directly from the movie, thereby
allowing angular width to be more accurately calculated. Finally, I use a new shot of Vader’s shuttle landing on the
DS2 (“Shuttle Landing – New”) wherein the “wing hinges” (i.e., the forward edge of the widest part of the main
hull) are directly over the hangar bay entrance. (I am using Saxton’s width of the wing hinges, 12.1 meters, as my
“ruler” for measuring the hangar bay, so I want that part of the shuttle to be exactly as distant as the hangar bay
door itself.) Let’s first take a look at “Shuttle Landing – New”:
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The shuttle is 38 pixels wide across the wing hinges, while the bay itself is 244 pixels wide. Given that the shuttle
is 12.1 m wide across the wing hinges (using a metric conversion of the landed width, in feet, from the movie set
blueprints), this means that the hangar bay must be 77.7 m (73.2 – 82.7 m) wide. (Again, note that all
measurements are given assuming a margin of error of ±2 pixels.)
Now, using this value for the width, we can calculate the size of the trench. Consider the measurements
on “Death Star Landing Bays” (Source: Saxton):
Given that the small bay is at the same relative distance as the inner trench’s far edge, the inner trench must have
a height of 239/27 times 77.7 m (73.2 – 82.7 m) meters, or 687.8 m (598.2 – 797.2 m). Then, given that the
near edge of the inner trench is at the same absolute distance as the outer trench, we know that the outer trench
must be 483/256 times 687.8 m (598.2 – 797.2 m), or 1297.7 m (1115.2 – 1522.2 m). (This is noticeably
smaller than Saxton’s width of 1,800 meters, but the difference is generated by taking relative distance into
account.)
Finally, this width can be used in “Death Star Approach – Breaking Off” to determine the real size of the
DS2:
The trench, measured at the horizon, has a size of 15 pixels (0.47°), yielding a distance of 158.2 km (119.9 –
214.3 km) to the DS2 horizon. Then, given that the DS2 has a size of 1979 pixels (56.85°), allows us to calculate
the DS2 radius at 85.6 km (64.8 km – 116.1 km). Thus, the diameter of the DS2 is 171.2 km (129.6 km –
232.2 km).
The DS2 is most commonly attributed a diameter of 160 km (Movie Trilogy Sourcebook, Special Edition
Movie Trilogy Sourcebook, Death Star Technical Companion, StarWars.com Databank). This size falls within the
expected margin of error calculated from canonical sources (129.6 – 232.2 km); therefore, we fail to reject the
official size of 160 km for the DS2. (However, we do reject an interview, cited by Saxton, that would have put the
size of the DS2 at approximately 500 miles or 800 km in diameter – this figure clearly does not fall within the
margin of error calculated directly from the canon.) Therefore, throughout the remainder of this article, we
accept the official size of 160 km diameter as being correct for the DS2.
Orbit of the Second Death Star
Recall the screen shot “Death Star over Endor.” Now that we have an accurate size for the DS2, we can easily
calculate its distance from the camera in that shot. Given an angular width of 21.71°, the DS2 is 424.8 km (420.6
– 428.9 km) distant. Given the distance to Endor, calculated earlier at 7616.1 km, the orbital radius of the DS2
The Truth about the “Endor Holocaust,” © 2004 SWRPGNetwork (Author: Gary M. Sarli) page 8 of 18
can be shown to be 7311.5 km (7308.6 – 7314.4 km) in radius, or 2111.5 km (2108.6 – 2114.4 km). To verify
this orbit, I use another low-orbit shot (“Death Star over Endor #2,” Source: R.S. Anderson):
Using the same techniques described previously (and further detailed in the Appendices), this photograph yields an
orbit of 7350.3 km (7346.7 – 7353.8 km) radius, or 2150.3 km (2146.7 – 2153.8 km) altitude. This is very close
to the 7311.5 km (7308.6 – 7314.4 km) radius figure calculated from “Death Star over Endor,” but the orbits don’t
quite overlap. Given that orbits are rarely perfectly circular, this is acceptable. I will use the average of the two
values (7330.9 km radius, 2130.9 km altitude) throughout the remainder of this article.
Explaining the Shots from the Fleet Emerging from Hyperspace
Correction:
In the original version of this article (05/31/2004), I had used these shots to estimate the orbit of the DS2
at 38,824.7 km radius (33,624.7 km altitude). My reasoning was that they show the entire disc of both
the DS2 and Endor (making measurement subject to less error), and both shots seem to be consistent
with each other. Since this shot had the ribs of the Falcon’s cockpit canopy visible, it seemed to be the
most reliable shot because the range of possible zoom factors is constrained. However, “Darth-Wong”
demonstrated that this shot of Tyderium approaching Endor has the same constrained foreground, making
the original calculated orbit impossible. In this section, I propose a hypothesis that may explain the
discrepancy.
There is, however, an apparent contradiction in this shot (“Falcon Approach,” Source: R.S. Anderson):
If you measure this shot assuming a normal 70-degree view, the DS2 has an angular width of 1.66°. Given the
160 km diameter, this yields a distance of 5522.7 km. Endor, at 14.48°, is calculated to have a distance of
41,261.6 km. As both are almost centered in the frame, we would calculate the DS2’s orbit at 35738.9 km radius
(30538.9 km altitude). This is an orbital radius 4.9 times as large as the one calculated earlier.
In my opinion, there are only a few possible explanations for this:
1. The DS2 moved – highly unlikely because a change of tens of thousands of kilometers would have
revealed that it was operational while the fleet was on approach.
2. Optical distortion – a fish-eye lens (approximately 150° angle of view) could distort the DS2 and Endor to
make them appear farther apart; however, the objects in the cockpit show no comparable distortion,
making this highly unlikely.
3. Hyperspatial distortion – a very large number of capital ships and starfighters had just emerged from
hyperspace in the moments before this shot, so perhaps some unknown physical laws are at work.
4. Blooper – the shot simply doesn’t match because the matte painting artist didn’t get the scaling quite
correct. (Saxton discusses bloopers in “Continuity, Canon, and Apocrypha”.)
As #1 and #2 both seem to be very hard to justify, that only leaves #3 and #4. “Blooper” is an “if-all-else-fails”
category (i.e., only use it if there is no way whatsoever to justify the apparent canonical discrepancy). Therefore,
let’s take a closer look at #3. First, in the transition from hyperspace to realspace, Endor and the DS2 both appear
on screen, first at a great apparent distance, but very quickly zooming closer. Does this represent real movement
in realspace, or is it a visual distortion caused by the shift from hyperspace to r


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