NASA

Saturn's moon sparks 'Death Star' comparisons

Saturn's moon Tethys (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute).

Saturn's moon Tethys (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute).

This week NASA released an image of Saturn’s icy moon Tethys. The ‘Twitterverse’ responded by comparing the heavenly body to the Death Star from “Star Wars”.

The moon is one of many satellites orbiting the ringed gas giant.  According to NASA, the image was taken late last year by the Cassini spacecraft. The probe has been traveling the solar system for nearly 20 years.

Scott Edgington, the deputy project scientist for the Cassini mission to Saturn, says it’s unlikely George Lucas found the inspiration to create the Death Star after the likeness of Tethys.

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“We first saw that moon up close and personal with the Voyager flybys,” he told FoxNews. “Those took place well after the release of the Star Wars movie.”

He added that he wasn’t surprised people found the likeness nostalgic. Edgington himself watched "Star Wars" and other Sci-Fi movies during his childhood. His interest in science fiction inspired him to become a scientist.  

“It invoked thoughts of my childhood,” Edgington said when asked about the Tethys’ comparison to the Death Star. “Because obviously you see that and you go ‘wow, here’s this moon which looks like something from a movie that I grew up with’.”

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Edgington says the crater seen on the surface of the moon was created by an impact. The surface of Tethys is covered with many other craters, he explained, but the Odysseus crater stands out.

After traveling for nearly 20 years in space, the Cassini spacecraft is winding down its mission. Edgington says a planned descent into the atmosphere of Saturn will take place later this year after a series of orbits around the gas giant.

“In April we’ll begin our last phase of the mission,” he told Fox News. “[We’ll] have literally 22 orbits that will take the spacecraft in between the planet and the rings.”

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He added that spacecraft like Cassini have expanded our understanding of the solar system and the search for life outside of Earth. He remains inspired by images of planets and moons beamed back from outer space.

But when asked the million-dollar question, “Death Star or eyeball?” here’s how he responded.  “I think it looks like a Death Star,” Edgington said with a laugh. 

Willie James Inman is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Jackson, Mississippi. Follow him on twitter: @WillieJames