As we all know Luke Skywalker used the Force to destroy the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Darth Vader famously says

The Force is strong with this one.

Yet three years later in The Empire Strikes Back, when he meets Master Yoda for the first time he appears to sense nothing of the Force in the great master, even though he feels:

... like we're being watched!


Initial, and (deceptively?) light-hearted encounter with Master Yoda

  • Because he's there to get trained.
    – Valorum
    Dec 20, 2015 at 22:37
  • Wasn't there something about that tree masking Yoda's presence?
    – calccrypto
    Dec 20, 2015 at 23:15

3 Answers 3


This is even simpler than anyone else is suggesting.

We know from canon that even the strongest Force user is not ordinarily able to be sensed by other strong users:

  • Qui-Gon doesn't sense the Force sensitivity in Anakin.

  • Anakin doesn't sense the Force sensitivity in his twin unborn children. As in, he doesn't even know there are two.

  • Vader doesn't sense the Force sensitivity in Leia on board of Death Star.

  • Vader doesn't sense the Force sensitivity in Luke on board of Death Star (and you can't blame it on being too busy with Obi-Wan, since that doesn't explain Leia bullet).

  • Yoda, Mace and co don't sense the Force sensitivity in Palpatine (OK, that one was Lucased away with "Dark Side influence"... which in no way explains the first 3 bullets)

TFA spoiler:

* Kylo Ren not sensing Force sensitivity in Rey when he is initially on Jakku (and I think even when he captures her but before the interrogation).

So, the only times you can sense the Force in someone is when the target is actively using their Force abilities (so you likely don't sense their Force sensitivity, but the effect their Force abilities have on the Force when using it). This explains

  • Vader sensing Obi-Wan on board of Death Star (Obi-Wan used the Force to sneak around)

  • Vader sensing Luke when flying Death Star trench run (he finally tapped into the Force)

  • 2
    perhaps once you've been around another Force user for a while, you learn to sense their presence; note that Vader doesn't sense "someone strong in the Force" but specifically senses Obi Wan Kenobi...
    – KutuluMike
    Dec 20, 2015 at 23:59
  • @MikeEdenfield - I would guess he senses a specific way Obi-Wan uses the Force. But not merely Obi-Wan being around Dec 21, 2015 at 0:22
  • This makes me think it is like a dog learning a scent. Until there is some reason to associate it with a specific person or purpose, any given scent is just one amongst the jumble of literally thousands of others that are in the nose at the moment. But once that association is made most dogs will never forget it. Humans do this too. Ever walk into a place and suddenly think about some childhood memory or a person you know? I'll never smell butter tea and chlorine without automatically getting slightly edgy, for example. I think force sense is associated because its overwhelmingly present.
    – zxq9
    Dec 21, 2015 at 5:41
  • It has also been demonstrated in the EU that experienced Force users can reduce, even hide, their presence in the Force. Most certainly Yoda would know how to do that, seeing as he is in hiding from Vader and Palpatine. Dec 21, 2015 at 6:46
  • Could you perhaps mark the 6th bullet as a spoiler?
    – Mixxiphoid
    Dec 21, 2015 at 7:33

Darth Vader, when encountering Luke, is not only sensing Luke's innate connection to the Force, but also, at that same moment, Obi-Wan Kenobi is communicating with Luke as well - Vader is sensing that confluence of Force power going on in the cockpit. Luke barely had any training with Kenobi - so while he is a Force adept, he has not yet mastered the Force in any way beyond what one may expect from a gifted Padawan. Yoda has successfully hidden from the Empire, Darth Sideous, Darth Vader, and the Inquisitors for years. It stands to reason that if he doesn't want to reveal himself, he can shield his essence from Luke as well. Luke senses a life-form, but does not have the skill of Vader to sense Force powers yet. Ultimately - Luke is blinded by his expectations of who he thinks Yoda will be, look like, act, etc...he envisions Yoda to be a great warrior, not a diminutive elderly creature. "Wars not make one great" & "size matters not" - it is quite possible Yoda was hiding his nature to further drive home a point to the Luke he had seen for a long time.

"This one, a long time have I watched, all his life as he looked away: to the future, to the horizon...never his mind on where he was. What he was doing. Adventure - hmph!, excitement - hpmh! A Jedi craves not these things"

  • You raise great points Yoda hiding etc. That occurred to me but there was no need to hide from Luke imo. +1. Dec 21, 2015 at 0:05
  • @AthenaWidget in the case of Luke, I think was less about hiding and more about gaining further insight into Luke's personality and maturity before agreeing to train him. Remember - he's the son of Anakin Skywalker. It is prudent to determine his psychological condition.
    – NKCampbell
    Dec 21, 2015 at 0:45

We have these examples of sensing Force presence by the Jedi: - Darth Vader sensing Obi-Wan - Darth Vader sensing Luke

As noted before, in both cases people were actively using Force. More than that, though, Vader was intimately familiar with Obi-Wan, whereas Luke is his own son. This familiarity might have helped him sense their presence as well.

"It has also been demonstrated in the EU that experienced Force users can reduce, even hide, their presence in the Force. Most certainly Yoda would know how to do that, seeing as he is in hiding from Vader and Palpatine."

Actually, no. Vader only sensed Obi-Wan once he started using Force, yet Yoda had no issue training Luke in Force. However, that tree on Dagobah was noted to being strong in the Dark Side, which likely hid Yoda's presence.

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