Star Wars: The Science of Star Killing

In Star Wars The Force Awakens, the galaxy is going to face a new threat, The First Order. This new evil empire has a super weapon capable of destroying whole solar systems, which they keep at their base of operations: Starkiller Base.


If the name “Starkiller” sounds familiar, its probably because an early draft of the first Star Wars script called the main character “Luke Starkiller” instead of “Skywalker”, and a lot of Star Wars
writers like to reference that fact with easter eggs throughout the Star Wars universe.

It seems though that the First Order are using the name literally and that their new weapon may actually be able to destroy stars. Leaving aside for now the question of what this could mean for the Galaxy and our heroes, let’s first ask the question: how would that even work? Watch the video below to see how we break down the galactic science behind star killing.

The gravity that holds the star together is delicate. If the amount of stuff in the star doesn’t stay dense enough the explosions at its core will start to expand out in a massive explosion called a Supernova. So, if you want to make a star go supernova, you just have to add enough energy to make its mass outweigh its density.

But say you actually do want to use a laser, just for old times’ sake. Well, one way to do that is the use the technique of laser cooling. Laser cooling is a method scientists actually use when researching microscopic particles. It works because temperature is largely caused by the atoms inside of something moving at a faster rate. If you can tune
a laser finely enough to push individual atoms, you can slow down their rate of movement and cool off the structure their part of. How does this help with our star problem? Well simple, the exploding stuff acts like a core reactor. But, if you reduce the temperature of the core, you’ll also decrease its amount of fusion.

The star’s balance of gravity and expansion will be thrown off and it will collapse in on itself, and boom goes the dynamite.

The video dives deeper into the science, but basically that is the scientific method for star killing. Remember kids, don’t try this at home.


Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.

Supernova Through the Eyes of the Hubble Space Telescope:
Lesson Plan

Lesson Objective:  Students will gain an understanding of a star going supernova, through a classroom activity that simulates the phenomenon.

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Lesson tags: Astronomy, Density, Eighth, Featured, Gravity, Mass, Movies, Ninth, physics, Pop Culture, Science, Science Fiction, Star Wars, Tenth

Melissa Pelletier

Melissa has a Masters in Educational Communication and Technology from NYU. She has worked in academic publishing, games, and the educational toys industries.