Death Star Part II: How to Power The Thing

Direct continuation of Can the Death Star Really Destroy a Planet?

To recap, we learned last week in the first part of what will now be a three-part once-a-week series that it takes 3.737×1032 joules for the Death Star to destroy a planet. We also know from the previous article that this power is equivalent to:

  • The energy in 249 sextillion lightning bolts.
  • The energy released by 893 trillion combined atomic bombs.
  • Enough energy to power the world for 471 times the current age of the universe.
  • Equal to the sustained energy output of the sun for 11.2 days.
  • 1,384 trillion times the energy output of a photon torpedo. (Using data from the TNG Technical Manual)


If you noticed the fourth bullet, you could be powering a similar device with sustained solar power in a Dyson Sphere type deal. Of course, beyond the feasibility of storing a sun as the core of a spaceship, the idea is still impractical for two reasons — one shot on a planet would deplete a little over 11 days of normal operation, and your doomship would have to be much larger than one would want.

The Death Star in the films and extended semi-canon novels was given to be between 120 and 160 kilometers which is 8,700 times smaller than the Sun. Additionally, the Death Star is not only powering a laser, but it also has to provide for “a crew of 265,675, as well as 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 stormtroopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew.” Additionally, it has to power “10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,600 ion cannons, and at least 768 tractor beam projectors.” Lastly, the first death Star was able to recoup the 3.737×1032J in a day, and the second Death Star was rumored to be hypothetically capable of recouping the energy in a mere three minutes. Solar energy is out.

Sorry, Mr. Sun


While not ruling out “sufficiently advanced technology”, what things that are known about today could be powering the ship? What about the matter-antimatter thing you hear about from nearly every Star Trek episode where the warp drive goes haywire? In a matter-antimatter explosion, the energy output is equal to the famous equation E=mc2. So how much matter/antimatter would we need? We can solve for it.

E = mc2
3.737×1032 = m(9×1016)
m = (3.737×1032)/(9×1016)
m = 4,152,222,222,222,222kg

The other equation, E= MCHammer was unable to be used here.


Even with total conversion of mass into energy — which is the most efficient source of energy known — a little more than four trillion metric tons of antimatter would be consumed in the production of one planet destroying beam charge. So how much space would that take up? It’s impossible to say without knowing the density of antimatter. However, you would also need a method of constantly replenishing the reaction; needing to be able to generate trillions of metric tons every day (or every three minutes).

Hurray for Einstein!


Another idea involves a little mix with Stargate SG-1, and to have a network of mobile Stargates or wormholes to flow the energy into. This would reduce the space requirements, but you still would need enough wormhole volume to flow the energy through in a quick enough manner. With no space constraints, it would be feasible using advanced future tech to channel energy from a stellar body or group of stellar bodies that generate 5,376 suns of energy output — enough to fire a shot every three minutes.

So either the Sith crossed over to MGM, or they got their hands on some crazy power stuffs, or maybe they really are powering the whole thing with the Force.

I’m running out of ideas to power the massive energy needed to destroy a planet. There’s got to be a better way to destroy the entire planet, which we’ll explore next week. Or maybe the Sith could just get used to killing everyone on the surface of the planet.

Pictured: The Force.


Continued by: Death Star Part III: Easier Ways to Entirely Destroy A Planet


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On 25 May 2009 in All, Physics. 6 Comments.


  1. #1 Peter says:
    25 May 2009, 4:45 pm  

    Unfortunately the power of the force cannot be currently measured.

  2. #2 Jeff says:
    25 May 2009, 6:58 pm  

    Well, in Scanners they made that guy’s head explode, and that was basically the force.
    Anyways, anything so powerful as to render mass unimportant with regards to moving things is probably pretty powerful. I like to think that the Force is an ability to directly modify the force on an object, mathematically. Like, F=ma sort of thing.

  3. #3 Jeff says:
    25 May 2009, 7:34 pm  

    If “size matters not”, then they should just force-push planets into the sun, or vice-versa.

  4. #4 Peter says:
    26 May 2009, 7:42 pm  

    @Jeff: Maybe, although the strength of the force isn’t even defined in the fiction.

    We do know that the Emperor says that the Death star “pales in comparison to the powers of the Force,” so therefore the Force is stronger. Yet they’re using a massive machine with immense power requirements to destroy planets instead of using the force to destroy planets instead.

  5. #5 Ean Aidans says:
    29 Apr 2011, 12:33 am  

    Well, people who don’t understand the Force would be more afraid of a moon sized battle-station than an invisible force. Also, the Empire would need somewhere to put its troops. Perhaps the laws of physics do not apply in ‘a galaxy far, far away’.

    P.S.- Just something that bothered me: you spoke of technology of the “future”; “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”. •^^^^^^^^^^^^•

  6. #6 Eric says:
    25 May 2013, 1:49 pm  

    On the contrary. I would imagine that people would be MUCH more afraid of an invisible force than a giant doomsday device simply because they DON’T understand it.

    Think of it like this: what would scare you more, a vast, unseeable, undetectable, incomprehensible force that only the Emperor and Darth Vader, your overlords, can use from anywhere to strike anywhere and you can do nothing to stop them, or a big planet destroyer that can be destroyed with just one shot from a Photon Torpedo down an exhaust vent?

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