The Death Star utilized eight separate beams into one supermassive blast that was capable of destroying a planet. This required eight emitter stations, and probably precise physics to make them meet properly (one can just imagine being surrounded by a fleet of Star Destroyers watching a test firing, and several getting taken out when the beams missed colliding and kept going off in another direction).

Death Star Firing

As far as I know, combining beams doesn't add energy, if it's even possible at all. So why wouldn't they have put just one big emitter in the Death Star, other than the fact that eight beams looks cool?

  • 19
    Because it looks cooler.
    – Raphael
    Jun 25, 2012 at 15:40
  • Other than that...
    – The Fallen
    Jun 25, 2012 at 16:14
  • 1
    It is like epoxy glue...you have to mix two materials to make it work.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 6, 2015 at 20:42
  • 4
    @SSumner, sometimes there is no "other". dilbert.com/strip/2012-11-24 Jun 13, 2015 at 1:57

3 Answers 3


First, it couldn't have been a laser since lasers would just shoot through each other. (Actually, with enough energy to destroy a planet, they would probably create a gigantic plume of subatomic particles, but never mind that.) It would have to be some sort of particle-based weapon so that the opposing beams could interact with each other.

Second, you might want to do that because of limitations of physical devices you use to generate the beams. For example, each of the sub-beams may already be heating the surrounding conduits to near the melting point of the metals containing them (either directly or indirectly: if they're kept in place by some sort of shield, perhaps the shield emitters have the maximum possible power density before they start melting metals, or the power conduits into them vaporize, or whatever).

  • Could it be some type of heat ray that would pass through the planet until it hit the core and would heat up the magma in the core until it turned to a gas and blew up the planet? Jun 25, 2012 at 15:51
  • 2
    @OrionDarkwood - It's difficult to conceive of any realistic scenario given the heat capacity and gravitational potential of an entire planet. I assume the rest of the dish provides some sort of magnetic containment field to assist in combining beams. Beyond that, I prefer not to speculate.
    – Rex Kerr
    Jun 25, 2012 at 15:57
  • I didn't mean to type laser in that last sentence. I omitted it in the earlier ones, I just wasn't paying attention at the end. Edited.
    – The Fallen
    Jun 25, 2012 at 16:14
  • You still have laser in the title though.
    – Dason
    Jun 25, 2012 at 16:22
  • 1
    You have any idea how many parsecs it took them to get them all aligned properly... what do you mean a parsec is a measure of distance not time? You must be mistaken after all it was G Canon.
    – Chad
    Jun 26, 2012 at 20:03

I found this site which explains how the super laser on the death star works.

"Powered by the Death Star's colossal hypermatter reactor, 64 tributary shafts generated eight beams that united to form the primary beam over the central lens of the weapon. These tributary beams were arranged around an invisible, central focusing field, firing in an alternate sequence to build the power necessary to destroy a planet. A crew of one hundred and thirty-two gunners—fourteen per amplification crystal—were required to manage this sobering power."

Also, I can't seem to find a actual source, but in an interview with George Lucas the original concept for the death star actually had a focusing lens where all the beams meet up.

  • That really doesn't answer the question of why you couldn't combine the beams - it just tells how they did it
    – The Fallen
    Jun 26, 2012 at 11:38
  • 1
    It would be bad. Sep 11, 2012 at 13:51

I don't have any in-universe explanation but maybe the Death Star was using the same spectral beam combining concept as Lockheed Martin used in their "LASER" weapon - ATHENA.

The prototype uses a technique called spectral beam combining, in which a group of lasers comes together to form a powerful beam that — terrifyingly — provides "greater efficiency and lethality" than other laser weapons currently known to be under development, according to Lockheed Martin.



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