When the gang are incoming on the Death Star in Ep IV, Han remarks that the Death Star is "too big to be a space station", or something to that effect.

Surely in space, any body perceived to be "too big" or "too small" could simply be further away due to perspective (eg, our sun and moon appearing as being the same size). Therefore, if Han thought the space station were too large, maybe it could be closer to him than he thought?

Of course you're thinking that he's scanning the DS somehow, and knows its absolute size. Then, surely, Han could sense that it's artificial, giving off radio signals, and etc?

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    It's first confused for a moon. That indicates they're not sure what it is. Han could just be expressing incredulity at the size of it rather than actually being confident it's not a space station
    – user46509
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 12:12
  • youtu.be/dS12p0Zqlt0
    – user46509
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 12:14
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    Sure he could have been fooled by perspective but being an experienced pilot he's not likely to. Things like relative motion are also indicators.
    – Radhil
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 12:41
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    While approaching an object, it becomes larger. The closer you are to the object, the greater the rate of growth. While you might not have any clue about the trigonometry, your brain still does the math for you (simply by experience) and gives you a good guess how close you are and how large the object is.
    – MooS
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 16:47
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    KENOBI: Now Han, let’s go through it again: this space station is small, but this space station is far away. HAN: This is hard. Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


According to the official novelisation, Han's response is driven by simple disbelief rather than denial. Note that the dialogue here is slightly different from the film.

“The Empire must have an outpost there,” Solo admitted. “Although, according to the atlas, Alderaan had no moons.” He shrugged it off. “Galactic topography was never one of my best subjects. I’m only interested in worlds and moons with customers on them. But I think I can get him before he gets there; he’s almost in range.”

They drew steadily nearer. Gradually craters and mountains on the moon became visible. Yet there was something extremely odd about them. The craters were far too regular in outline, the mountains far too vertical, canyons and valleys impossibly straight and regularized. Nothing as capricious as volcanic action had formed those features.

“That’s no moon,” Kenobi breathed softly. “That’s a space station.”

“But it’s too big to be a space station,” Solo objected. “The size of it! It can’t be artificial—it can’t!”

For the record, Hans has been scanning the local area ever since their arrival so you'd expect him to have a reasonable idea of what's in his vicinity. In order for an object to be off the scope, but still visible to the naked eye it would have to be planetary in scale.

“It followed us!” Luke shouted.
“From Tatooine? It couldn’t have,” objected a disbelieving Solo. “Not in hyperspace.”
Kenobi was studying the configuration the tracking screen displayed. “You’re quite right, Han. It’s the short-range TIE fighter.”

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    "Han's response is driven by simple disbelief rather than denial." Yeah -- I think my impression has always been that Han was not trying to say, "You're wrong, old man, because it's a natural law of the universe that no artificially-created space station could ever be that large." I felt he was only rejecting the ridiculous idea that anyone would have gone to so much trouble to build such a huge artifact in space -- unprecedented! (But of course the Emperor of an entire Galaxy is in a uniquely good position when it comes to indulging his own whims on a titanic scale.)
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 23:50
  • @Lorendiac: The last sentence sounds a bit like he would be the 'Let's use the superlaser to engrave 'Sheev was here' into a planet!' kind of guy. Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 0:03
  • He probably would be, if he hadn't decided that using it to destroy the planet entirely would make an even stronger impression.
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 1:47

Possibly Han has a space radar that reports that the "moon" is so far away it would have to be hundreds of kilos wide to have such a large apparet diameter. Possibly the space radar is not set to report on the nature of the surfaces it contacts and doesn't report that the moon is made of metal.

Or possibly the space radar did not show the "moon" so Han knew the "moon " was beyond the range of the radar and thus could estimate how large it must be to have such a large angular diameter at even the closest possible distance.

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