Space images from NASA and beyond make Star Wars feel totally real

Science

CNET 04 May, 2021 - 02:02am 5 views

Why May the 4th be with you?

Star Wars Day is an informal commemorative day observed annually on May 4 to celebrate George Lucas' Star Wars media franchise. ... The date originated from the pun "May the Fourth be with you", a variant of the popular Star Wars catchphrase "May the Force be with you". wikipedia.orgStar Wars Day

Star Wars might be science fiction, but at times, the universe of Luke Skywalker and General Leia crosses over into the reality of our own. These real space images and places will bring the galaxy far, far away a little closer to home.

NASA's Saturn-studying Cassini spacecraft sent back plenty of great views of the ringed planet and its moons. This striking view of the moon Mimas shows how the rocky satellite earned its nickname of the "Death Star moon."

The image comes from late 2016. Mimas is 246 miles (396 kilometers) in diameter. The large round crater makes it resemble the Death Star with its concave dish. Darth Vader would give this moon a double-take if he saw it out there in space.

To celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, NASA released a Hubble Space Telescope image of a formation it described as a "cosmic, double-bladed lightsaber" with a "Jedi-like cloak of dust" near the center. Actually, a baby star is blasting out twin jets, but the cosmic lightsaber is a fabulously fantastical image.

The International Space Station transited the sun on June 24, 2020 in this stunning composite image. But look closer and you'll see a distinct resemblance to a TIE fighter. The ISS solar panel arrays give it a very Star Wars look when it's seen in silhouette from a distance.

Members of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission launched to the International Space Station in late 2020, and they didn't go alone. The four astronauts took along a tiny Baby Yoda to use as an indicator of when they reached microgravity after launch. The floating Grogu was an adorable addition to the pioneering crew.  

SpaceX shared this glamor shot of the Yoda toy on May 4, 2021.

The Gregor solar telescope in Spain released a high-res, close-up view of an incredible sunspot in late 2020 that looked a bit like the toothy void of a Star Wars sarlacc pit. A hungry sarlacc was a personal favorite pet of Jabba the Hutt.

The sun isn't the only place that resembles a sarlacc pit. This NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image from 2015 shows a pit with a rocky-looking bottom.  "No sarlacc here, we think," the HiRise camera team tweeted. This was the perfect image for a Star Wars joke. No aliens were found.

NASA knows its Star Wars references. The space agency shared research on active galaxy TXS 0128+554 in August 2020, referring to it as looking like a TIE fighter. The angle of the galaxy as seen from Earth makes it look like one of the infamous Imperial spacecraft.  

The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio antenna network viewed TXS 0128+554 at 15.4 gigahertz, which made its TIE fighter shape pop out.

For May the 4th in 2020, Roscosmos cosmonaut Ivan Vagner shared this delightful image of a crocheted Yoda talisman floating on the International Space Station. Vagner's wife made the mini-Yoda as a way to help remind the cosmonaut of family and Earth, and, of course, the famous saying "May the Force be with you."

Elvis, Darth Vader and a mad scientist took over the International Space Station for Halloween in 2018. Cosplaying astronauts had some fun playing dress up. It shows these real-life explorers are just as into Star Wars as the fans back on Earth.

The Force has long been strong with NASA. In 2015, the space agency released a delightfully geeky Star Wars-themed poster for the Expedition 45 mission on the International Space Station. It showed each member dressed in Jedi robes and wielding a lightsaber. The crew featured NASA astronauts, Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut, showing just how international Star Wars truly is.

NASA's Curiosity rover snapped a Martian landscape image in March 2018 that showed a pretty normal collection of rocks scattered around the ground. A UFO enthusiast, however, noticed one of them looked a bit like Jabba the Hutt's head. It takes a bit imagination to get there, but it's fun once you do.

NASA astronaut and Star Wars fan Kjell Lindgren shared an image of himself posed in the multi-windowed cupola section of the International Space Station in 2015. "Just taking the TIE fighter for a spin," Lindgren tweeted, in a nod to the resemblance between the cupola and the cockpit of the fictional fighter spacecraft.

NASA's Earth Observatory team shared this satellite view of the fishing town of Ajim on the Tunisian island of Djerba in 2020. This was a famous Star Wars filming location for the Mos Eisley cantina on the desert planet Tatooine. The Landsat 8 satellite gave us a far-off look at the filming spots, which NASA pointed out in the annotated image.

The planet of Tatooine is famous as Luke Skywalker's home, and also for its two suns. There are real planets like it out there in the universe. This artist's concept shows Kepler-1647b, which is in a system with a secondary star transiting a primary star. 

As of mid-2016, Kepler-1647b was one of the largest "circumbinary planets" ever found. It was spotted in data collected by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope.

Ice planet OGLE-2005-BLG-390 is a real place that NASA scientists nicknamed "Hoth" in honor of the famously cold and snowy planet from Star Wars. Researchers estimate the surface temperature  at minus 364 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 220 Celsius). You'd need a whole lot of tauntauns to survive that kind of cold.

This illustration shows what the planet might look like.

Read full article at CNET

The Binary Sunset Has Always Held the True Meaning of Star Wars

Esquire.com 04 May, 2021 - 01:09pm

It's one of the most striking images in film history—and one that returns throughout the franchise. But these two suns poetically hold the beloved sci-fi series together.

It happens about 25 minutes into A New Hope. Luke—now just a scrappy farmhand on a dusty sand planet—begs his Uncle Owen to let him leave Tatooine and join his friends at the Rebel flight academy. Owen refuses, and Luke stomps out of the hut, defeated, resigning to a scraggly hump in the sand. Up on that isolated dune, we see this misty-eyed peasant kid, who seems at once so goodhearted and so tortured, peering up toward a purple sky. A dewey french horn plays a melody in the upper register. And when Luke gazes out at that sunset, we see that there are two suns looking back at him. Mysterious as it may be, it’s an image that has established itself as among the most recognizable in all of film history.

But what does it mean, really? Today on May 4th–the pop culture holiday that’s come to be known as Star Wars Day–I keep thinking, after all these years, why do we keep seeing this Binary Sunset in Star Wars? The image is so significant to the series, appearing in Episodes III, IV, VIII, and IX, but it’s always understated. Unlike a lot of the recurring motifs of Star Wars, which are almost always just plainly stated out loud, the Binary Sunset is left open to interpretation. But that’s not to say this image is meaningless. In fact, as I unpack each occurrence of the Binary Sunset throughout the nine-film series, I’m realizing that these two suns may be the connective tissue holding all the many branches of the Star Wars saga together.

In Episode IV, Luke sees one sun that’s whitish with a pink outline, and another that’s blood-red. It’s a striking image, one that, especially with the majestic french horn from John Williams’ orchestra, inspires a lot of wonder. But there’s more to it. By the end of that trilogy, we come to understand, in this formative moment, Luke was gazing right over the threshold. A few scenes later, his foster parents will be burned to death and he’ll be yanked away from Tatooine to contend with a father who's dragging his only sun into a genocidal–yet all-powerful–Sith regime. One sun is light, the other is dark. In Return of the Jedi, we learn that it’s up to Luke to decide which one of those suns he’s going to let set on him. Get it?

28 earth years later, but a few decades on the Star Wars timeline backward, we see the suns again in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. This time, they’re the final image we see. Owen and Beru, two moisture farmers on the nowhere planet Tatooine, catch a glimpse of the Binary Sunset after being trusted with what will prove to be the Galaxy’s last hope: the infant Luke Skywalker. Whereas before, this image represented a choice between light or dark for the savior child, here, years before Luke’s story even really begins, the Binary Sunset is a signal of hope. Yes, the Galaxy has been lost to Lord Sidious, yes, the “chosen one” has gone the way of the Sith–but at the end of the prequel trilogy, we’re reminded that there is still hope. And not just in the form of one child. There are two suns: one for each of Padmé’s twin children.

We don’t see the Binary Sunset again for a long time. It isn’t until the second film of Disney’s new trilogy, 12 years after Episode III, after Kathleen Kennedy had brought the franchise back to its feet, that we see those suns–and Luke Skywalker–again. But in The Last Jedi, Luke isn’t quite the same as we’d known him before. The Luke Skywalker of Episode VIII is callous, old, and dejected. In the years we’d been away from him, Luke had failed–he failed to bring the Jedi Order back to life, failed to train his nephew Ben Solo, and worst of all, failed himself. Resigned to a solitary life away from the rest of the Galaxy, cut off from the Force, Luke became a shadow of the hero he once was. But in The Last Jedi, he’s finally brought back into the light. With Rey’s help, Luke finally accepts his failure, learns from his defeat, and makes a legendary sacrifice, his final stand against that blood red sun.

Luke dies a warrior death out on the far-off planet Ahch-To, but not before catching a glimpse of the Binary Sunset again. The last thing Luke sees before he disappears into a pile of empty robes is a pair of suns. Sure, they’re not the suns of Tatooine, but they certainly signal this recurring motif, except this time, the suns aren’t a representation of choice, but a reminder of sacrifice. A reminder of those who lived–and died–before him. For Luke to really become that hero he chose to be, he had to make this last sacrifice, just as Obi-Wan did for him. Staring out at these two suns, he’s learned his final lesson. It’s no coincidence that the John Williams soundtrack portion that plays during Luke’s passing is called “Peace and Purpose.”

The Skywalker Saga ends just two years later in J.J. Abrams’ Rise of Skywalker. And although the story drifts away from Luke and Anakin, exploring new regions of space with the new hero Rey, the Binary Sunset, again, becomes the prevailing symbol of the film. In Rise, Rey comes face to face with the reality that, unlike the heroes before her, she bears a bloodline that has only ever been associated with evil. She’s a Palpatine. And the prophecy says that she must restore the Sith to power, not the Jedi. So once again, it’s a story about choice–Rey’s choice to reject the narrative written about her in favor of an organic one.

But when she sees the Binary Sunset on Tatooine again, on this very last time, we learn now, after 10 films and over forty years later, that the meaning of these two suns was actually not so ambiguous or abstract after all. When Rey, a Palpatine, stares up at that stunning vision, the mystery of the Binary Sunset becomes really quite simple. The whitish sun–the light one–represents the Skywalker family. And the darker red one signifies the Palpatine bloodline. Two suns. Two families. Jedi. Sith. Good. Evil. Rey chooses which bloodline she wants to keep for herself. It’s about as classic as you get.

That’s Star Wars in a nutshell, I think. Franchise obsessives have argued for decades about what makes a story a Star Wars story. The series is a thematic one–although the Skywalker name is central to the movie trilogies, there’s really no person, group of people, central conflict, or even part of the galaxy on which the whole franchise is based. Unlike The Avengers, Lucasfilm’s space adventures aren’t just about bringing old stories from the comics to life, or adding new superheroes to a team, one by one. Sure there are recurring characters throughout Star Wars–we’re always seeing furry aliens, moody warriors, evil wizards, slap-happy smugglers, etc. But to me, Star Wars has always been more about french horns than laser swords. Today, as the franchise sits right on the precipice of a new era, with eleven upcoming television shows, two new films, and more comic books, novels, and video games to count, I hope Disney is keeping the Binary Sunset in mind. It’s like Finn says in Rise of Skywalker. “It’s a feeling.”

My Experience As a Female Star Wars Fan

Pirates and Princesses 04 May, 2021 - 11:40am

It’s Star Wars Day and over the last few years I’ve noticed that there are a lot of stories posted about what it’s like to be a ‘Star Wars’ fan. The media too has been particularly interested in this topic as well.

The stories are across the spectrum from good to bad, but lately, it seems the media and social media want to leverage the angle that women weren’t allowed to be fans until the Disney sequel trilogy.

I’m older, so I remember ‘Star Wars’, and more so “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” as being the big thing. I remember the Sears Christmas Catalog with the pictures of the playsets and toys.

I loved Ewoks and really wanted a plush one.

I remember boys and girls playing with the toys. I remember both boys and girls talking about the movies, going to the movies, being obsessed with the movies.  However I do admit it’s always been predominantly boys, girls and women have been fans since day one!

We were fans through all the classic films and then it was quiet until May 1, 1991 when we got the start of the Expanded Universe with Timothy Zahn’s ‘Heir to the Empire.” “Dark Force Rising” came out a year later and then “The Last Command” was released 11 months after that.

I was hooked! It was amazing and I loved it. That’s when I threw myself in all the way with Star Wars. I bought up toys, books, posters, and whatever else I could get my hands on. My dad took me to flea markets to find Star Wars pieces for my collection.

Whenever a new book came out I was at Waldenbooks buying it the first day and I spend many nights, staying up all night long, to read the whole thing. There were a lot of gals like me doing the same things.

A few years after the books started I was dealing in Star Wars toys to help pay for college! I was there ready with money in hand for the 1995 figures. We were finally getting figures again. That Princess Leia figure though, not a good look.

I was buying all the figures just like the guys. I was selling figures to other collectors all the time, and they were mostly men, but women were still buying and loving it too.

When the films were re-released in 1997, I got in line early with my female friend Kim and we were the first ones or second ones in line every time. You couldn’t get the tickets ahead so we waited in line for hours, in PA, when it was cold. We weren’t the only ones, there were a bunch of fans that lined up for hours with us and some of them were….yes women!

During our wait we chatted with other fans, a lot of them male, and never once were were quizzed or questioned. No one thought anything of it, if anything they were excited there were women in line with them.  I never felt excluded or judged in any way.

When I would read the books I would write fan letters to the authors. It wasn’t like today where you can just follow them on social media. I had to send them to the publisher and hope they got my letters, which they did. I wanted them to know they did a great job and how much their books meant to me.

I loved that series!!! https://t.co/aywMTCdKh8

— ‘Sorry Mom’ GEEKY Sparkles (@desert_starr_57) August 25, 2019

Which led to a character actually being named after me. They embraced fans so much that Kevin Anderson named a character after me.  I mean, my name being highly unusual had something to do with it too. He wrote me back, actually all the authors did, and he told me he liked my name and was putting into a list of names he might use and he did.

During all this time I still had not faced any push back, negativity, or bad behavior for being a female fan.

Same thing when the Prequels came out. Went to see them, the last two with my husband, and there were women and men there. No issues.

Cosplaying started to take off more and more and men and women would show up at events dresses as Star Wars characters and there were no issues. Everyone I talked to or say (because I was there) embraced it.

Now here’s where my story changes. I never faced backlash, belittlement, gate keeping, etc. until the Disney sequel trilogy. Now, this was not Disney’s fault, but some of the people they had working for them definitely stirred up division.

I was so excited when “The Force Awakens” came out. We were not well off then. Thom was laid off and I was working as a substitute teacher here and there. I scraped together all the money I could to buy us tickets to go. This would be the first time our kids went to see a Star Wars movie in the theater.

After the movie, I was disappointed because I felt I had just watched “A New Hope” all over again. I also felt Rey was too perfect and was able to overcome with little or no effort. We did NOT get Han, Luke and Leia together at all and now Han was gone.

It felt off to me. When I said so, that’s the first time I got gate kept, questioned, grilled, etc. by the “fandom.”

Then came time for The Last Jedi. I was really willing to give it a chance. I thought “well I understand why they went the nostalgia route with the first one, so now it will be different!”

It was. Just not in a good way. I watched my hero Luke Skywalker get destroyed. I watched new characters show up, that happened to be women, who weren’t that great. I was honestly starting to get insulted that the female representation was so bad.

When I left and stated my opinion, I was called names. I had men telling me that I was a “misogynist” because I didn’t like the film. I was told I wasn’t a “real fan” and I “didn’t fundamentally understand Luke Skywalker.” Terms like “racist” were thrown at me, even though I had zero issue with characters like Finn or Rose, I just thought they were done poorly.  (Also the leads were white and straight, but I was the -ist and -phobe for not loving them.)

Then I started seeing these headlines on blogs calling out “Toxic fans” and “Man Babies” for not liking the latest ‘Star Wars’ film. People started saying that women were finally allowed to be fans, yet they always were.

Journalists and social media stans started going on about how finally we had women in ‘Star Wars.’  We did. We always did. The games and books added even more fantastic, female characters that were well developed. They weren’t just suddenly there and you were supposed to love them or else.

I’m happy that women are becoming fans, but it seems like, for a large group of them, they are there to gatekeep and control the fandom. Women had been there the whole time, but now you aren’t allowed to be a “fan” unless you like the characters they do, or liked the ships they had.

The media started perpetuating this division and the bullying of older fans. I sincerely believe the division of the Star Wars fandom had more to do with the media and social media than it did with the second film.

I’ve talked to many long term fans, both male and female, and they ran into similar issues.  The “inclusive” new Star Wars fandom have been some of the biggest bullies I’ve ever seen. For years if you disagreed or didn’t like something it wasn’t a big deal. Now you were not allowed to not like the films.

Disney and Lucasfilm decided to reverse course on the direction and try to win back the fans with “Rise of Skywalker” but that just alienated and enraged the “new fans” and shippers and they became more combatitive.

Then came ‘The Mandalorian’ and we again had something that felt like true ‘Star Wars’ and many fans were coming back. We had strong, female characters that felt authentic again. We got Luke Skywalker back, and then the media came again to cause division and strife.

Now I’m just jaded. I wasn’t. I spent almost my whole life being a big fan and now I just give up.

The truth is, that for many of us gals, the fandom was inclusive and accepting. We weren’t kept out. Until the ones screaming about “inclusivity” became fans and they just pushed everyone else out.  I’m sick and tired of the media pushing this idea that women weren’t fans until now.

Oh and I did get my classic Ewok!

If you read it this far thank you. If you disagree you are allowed to. If you want to call me names, kindly screw off. It’s my blog and my opinion.

Sources: StarWars.com, Dinosaur Dracula, WishbookWeb, Wookiepedia,

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Best Star Wars gadgets and accessories to have the Force with you

Gadget Flow 04 May, 2021 - 08:18am

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Clean your home the fun way with the POWERbot Star Wars robot vacuum. This intelligent robot cleans your home to perfection while providing powerful suction for optimal results. Additionally, it’s available with a Darth Vader or Stormtrooper face. To accompany your chosen design, this cleaning gadget supports lifelike sound effects. Also, with high-standard cleaning technology, such as Cyclone Force, Edge Clean, and Fullview Sensor 2.0, it’ll make your space dirt- and dust-free in no time.

Purchase this robot vacuum for $699 from Samsung’s website.

Using a hot-air popping method, the Star Wars Death Star Popcorn Maker doesn’t require any oil or butter to make popcorn. So you can make a delicious, healthy snack to accompany a movie. It also boasts a high-efficiency operation with a 98% popping rate to minimize waiting time. In fact, it ensures constant hot air to pop corn in around two to three minutes. Best of all, the top doubles as a bowl for serving popcorn to guests.

Purchase yours for $49.99.

Say hello to the Star Wars Darth Vader Clapper, which can turn on the TV and lights by clapping your hands. In particular, if you clap twice, the outlet will turn whatever’s plugged in on or off. So you don’t need to get up to operate your appliances. Best of all, its fun Darth Vader appearance is a must-have for Star Wars fans.

Order your Star Wars accessory for you or a friend for $37.98.

Pay tribute to your favorite intergalactic heroes with the Star Wars Lamps 3D character lights. Choose your favorite character to provide a warm glow reminiscent of a Lightsaber. Providing a strong light, these characters illuminate your home while paying homage to the one and only Star Wars. In fact, they provide the perfect glow to fall asleep to, but they also look amazing on your desk.

Get yours for a reduced price of $9.

Prepare and cook food the fun way with the Instant Pot Duo Star Wars Pressure Cooker. A tribute to the heroic Star Wars droid, this kitchen accessory uses 70% less energy than a traditional oven. Use the pressure-cooker setting for up to four hours of cooking time. Or keep meals warm for up to 10 hours. With 13 built-in programs, it can make soup, rice, porridge, yogurt, chili, and more.

Upgrade your meals for $79.95.

When you want to keep your device on display, reach for the Cable Guys Darth Vader Device Holder. With a Darth Vader design, it’ll scare off anyone who dares to take your smartphone when you’re not looking. All the while, this useful gadget allows you to see your phone’s screen without having to pick it up. So you can see important notifications at a glance.

Get yours from the Urban Outfitters website for $24.95.

The theory11 Star Wars Playing Cards Dark and Light Side Decks are the perfect Star Wars gadgets and accessories. No matter which pack you choose, these cards feature a center with a repeating pattern of X-wing starfighters. Also, two lightsabers on the card’s edge follow this detail, making them ideal for collectors.

Up your card-gaming accessories for $9.95.

Build your own charming The Child while reproducing authentic details in LEGO style. The LEGO Star Wars The Mandalorian The Child building set measures 7.5 inches tall and 8.5 inches wide. It even comes with an adjustable mouth for various expressions for a realistic representation.

Treat a Star Wars fanatic for $79.99.

Honor the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, with the CORKCICLE Star Wars drinkware collection. Choose from the following characters: Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, Stormtrooper, C-3PO, and R2-D2. Available in a 12-ounce stemless cup or 16-ounce tumbler and canteen, this collection suits your everyday needs.

Get yours from $29.95.

The LEGO D-O droid building set might be your new favorite addition to your Star Wars collectibles. Including 519 pieces, a nameplate, and a minifigure version, this accessory is fun to build while providing an eye-catching display at home. Superbly created, this character encourages you to take time out from your busy schedule and get creative.

Purchase yours from the LEGO website for $69.99.

Which of the above Star Wars gadgets and accessories caught your eye? Share your favorite selections in the comments.

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