In the opening shot of The Force Awakens, we see the Star Destroyer Finalizer slowly obscure a planet that we assume is Jakku. We then see several small ships (that turn out to be transporters full of Stormtroopers) leave the Star Destroyer and head.. toward the camera?

enter image description here

If they're heading toward the camera, and that's Jakku, they're heading away from Jakku. So that can't be Jakku, it must be.. a moon? Another planet?

  • Could the perspective of the camera have just changed? Maybe add a screen cap if you can as well.
    – Skooba
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 12:50
  • The camera is fixed through this shot. Added images, if I can capture a gif it'll be clearer.
    – Plutor
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 12:59
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    Added a gif, much better.
    – Plutor
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 13:17
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    Why wasn't the star destroyer illuminated by the off screen sun in this shot? It should have been brightly lit.
    – RobertF
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 14:31
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    It would make perfect sense for the moons behind the destroyer to be lit, and the destroyer to be dark if the destroyer is in Jakku's shadow. It'd be very easy for the destroyer to be in Jakku's shadow without either of the moons being shadowed.
    – Matt
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 18:29

3 Answers 3


That's no moon...

...or, actually it is; according to the leaked script, anyway (emphasis mine):

PAN across the star field to a bright moon. A RUMBLING is FELT. A VAST STAR DESTROYER -- unlike any we have seen -- HURTLES PAST US, of seemingly endless length, eclipsing the moon. After a long beat, FOUR TRANSPORT SHIPS fly from a hangar. We HOLD ON THEM NOW, as they fly off toward a distant planet. Jakku.

The Force Awakens (2015)

And Pablo Hidalgo confirmed this on Twitter in January 2017:

enter image description here

@ZachJMayer I'm sorry if already answered. What are these 2 planets in the background of opening shot of TFA? Tried looking at Star map

@pablohidalgo That's Jakku's moon. The camera is looking up from Jakku.

  • 1
    Jakku may be the planet shown top-right, much smaller than the object in question (bright moon) in the foreground Commented May 9, 2016 at 14:19
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    In which case the ships still seem to be heading in a curious direction
    – Plutor
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 14:40
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    It could also be another moon. According to the Jakku entry on wookieepedia (I know, I know...) it has 2 moons. So that could very well explain that situation, if accurate. Commented May 9, 2016 at 16:12
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    "Seemingly endless length"? The opening scene from Spaceballs begs to differ. Commented May 9, 2016 at 17:23
  • @codingoutloud DangerZone is correct, per Word of Pablo Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 17:02
  • The ships are headed toward Jakku, as we expect.
  • Jakku is behind the camera.
  • The two bodies behind The Finalizer are the moons of Jakku.
  • The Finalizer is in Jakku's shadow.

We know that neither of the bodies in the background is Jakku because neither one looks the same as what we KNOW to be Jakku in later views from orbit. We know that The Finalizer is on Jakku's dark side, because they are landing at night (thanks Plutor).

What we DON'T know for certain is whether or not Jakku officially has two moons. If someone can find a shot from the movie, I'd be much obliged, but I think the evidence is pretty compelling that either Jakku has two moons, or there is another intrastellar body visible from Jakku.

  • Here is a time where I really wish wookieepdia was a known reliable source... As I mentioned in another comment, it does state that Jakku has 2 moons, but I know many people on this site despise using that as a resource for various reasons. And I really like the added point on why the Finalizer is dark. Can't believe I didn't think of that while reading through these posts yesterday. Commented May 10, 2016 at 20:39
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    We now know for sure that Jakku indeed has two moons Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 2:46

Orbital dynamics.

(Yes I know, Star Wars basically ignores all science, including it seems the speed of light with regard to seeing stuff happening instantly in completely different star systems, but stay with me here).

In order to lose orbital velocity and drop down into the atmosphere you need to fly backwards, decelerating your orbit.

If you accelerate towards the planet you will actually end up going faster and that increased speed will slingshot you back out.

The star destroyer is orbiting the planet, heading towards the top right of your screen. The transport ships are accelerating backwards in order to brake from orbital speed and then drop towards the planet.

Clearly the fact that they look as though they are heading away from the planet is just a quirk of the camera angle. Or something like that.

  • 4
    You only need to worry about delta-vee if you're short of power. Ships in Star Wars are perfectly capable of manipulating gravity, which means that a "point'n'shoot' approach to takeoff and landing (e.g. coming in from directly above or taking off straight upwards) is perfectly acceptable.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 18:47
  • @Richard Still, if the star destroyer is in orbit, anything that leaves from it heading to the ground has to lose speed, and thus - from the point of view of the start destroyer (or a camera following it) fly "backwards". Commented May 10, 2016 at 1:24
  • @Richard It's not just about delta v though. The fastest way from orbit to ground is to accelerate backwards and then fall. Powering yourself towards the planet is possible but makes everything harder - you will need to lose that orbital velocity anyway so might as well start doing it immediately.
    – Tim B
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 7:58
  • Only the objects we see in the screen capture are not flying any course consistent with your explanation. They are not "flying backwards", they are accelerating away from both the celestial bodies in the scene...
    – DevSolar
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 9:59
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    Well the only correct answer is "because the film makers just wanted it to look cool and didn't care about things making sense" so take it or leave it :)
    – Tim B
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 16:00

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