Six real-life Star Wars worlds
The Stars Wars universe has been captivating audiences for decades, but astronomers are beginning to find alien worlds that bear an uncanny resemblance to the planets dreamt up by George Lucas.
Appearing in every Star Wars movie except The Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens, Tatooine is a desert planet and the home of Luke and Anakin Skywalker. In A New Hope, an iconic scene shows Tatooine’s twin suns setting over the horizon. Astronomers have found several examples of planets orbiting in these so-called ‘binary systems’. The most famous is Kepler-16b – a real-life Tatooine.
In The Empire Strikes Back, the rebels set up their base on the snowy planet of Hoth. Most of the exoplanets found to date are reasonably warm, as planets that orbit closer to their stars are easier to spot. That said, the planet with the name of OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb is a contender for a Hoth lookalike. With temperatures plummeting to -220°C, it is almost certain to be covered with ice.
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader duelling on the lava planet of Mustafar was a memorable moment in Revenge Of The Sith. The most likely real-life counterpart is probably COROT-7b. At the time of its discovery in 2009, it was the smallest rocky planet ever detected outside our Solar System. Due to its proximity to its parent star – orbiting it in just 20 hours – the temperature rises beyond 2,000°C, enough to melt the rock into lava.
The water world of Kamino is home to Jango and Boba Fett. Planets known as ‘super-Earths’ might be entirely enveloped in water too, as their stronger gravity levels out mountains and volcanoes. The first terrestrial planet ever found in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star – Kepler-22b – has a strong chance of being a Kamino analogy.
In Return Of The Jedi we enjoyed watching the Ewoks running around Endor, a forest moon. There’s every reason to believe that similar moons exist in the Milky Way; in fact, some researchers think that habitable moons may outnumber habitable planets. Finding exomoons is hard, but astronomers are scouring Kepler data for them.
The Death Star/Mimas
That’s no moon. Except that it is. Saturn’s moon Mimas looks eerily like the Death Star in A New Hope. Curiously, however, there is no way George Lucas could have drawn inspiration from Mimas – we didn’t know it looked like that until the Voyager 1 probe flew by in 1980. The film had been released three years earlier. Astronomers are still baffled as to why the impact that caused Mimas’s distinctive crater didn’t blow the moon apart.