The corvette crashes into the side of the disabled ISD, bringing it towards the second destroyer:

enter image description here

How can a small corvette shift big destroyers like this?

  • 6
    Something something gravity, something something thrust.
    – Valorum
    May 6 '21 at 8:22
  • 4
    Smoke propogates in space. Open flames don't last long but if something can burn it will smoke especially if it does not need oxygen to burn.
    – Paulie_D
    May 6 '21 at 9:13
  • 21
    One thing to consider (which was probably on the scriptwriter's mind when they wrote this scene) is that tug boats in real life are tiny compared to the vessels they can and do move around. May 6 '21 at 9:15
  • 9
    Within the story the destroyer is disabled and it is implied (I think) that the hammerhead corvette has the fiction of ramming other spacecraft, so its tough and powerful enough to turn the disabled destroyer into a blunt force weapon. In real life I suspect its not so simple, but damn, that shot of the two destroyers colliding is beautiful. For me it was worth the price of the cinema ticket just to see that.
    – skyjack
    May 6 '21 at 11:18
  • 4
    I'm not sure that the question, as it stands, is answerable in a meaningful way. Out-of-universe there's the simple "Rule of cool" (and it was very cool), but in-universe it has been addressed in other questions already linked. "How," is a woolly subject in a cinematic universe that includes hyperspace, laser swords, space wizards, and teddybears capable of defeating elite military forces. May 6 '21 at 11:44

Simple physics, really.

The destroyer is disabled, so it is unable to apply any force to change its own trajectory. In other words, when it lost power, it was locked into whatever course and speed it was moving (i.e. inertia).

The corvette, while far smaller, is clearly exerting a lot of lateral force on the star destroyer. It's also exerting it at the bow, where the rotational force would be greater. It's behaving just like a tug boat here, which is a small ship with a powerful motor to move larger ships that cannot maneuver easily.

  • 7
    The inertia is the same. With a larger lever arm about the center of mass, the applied force results in a larger torque, which turns the ship without significantly altering the course of its center of mass. May 6 '21 at 19:13
  • 2
    @MadPhysicist: I think that the method shown would work if the vessels were ships with keels that could exert a countertorque. (Which, of course, they're not, but as was pointed out in the comments, the writers probably thought it would work the same way) May 6 '21 at 22:49
  • 4
    @MichaelSeifert. My issue is with the terminology. The inertia is not less at the bow, the lever arm about the center of mass is greater. If the little mass hits the big one moving along a line connecting their centers, there will be no torque applied, rotational momentum will not be transferred, and the momentum of the large mass will change only by a miniscule amount. In the situation shown though, the large lever arm gives the little mass a huge mechanical advantage by acting as a multiplier for its moment of inertia, allowing it to transfer significant rotational momentum. May 6 '21 at 23:15
  • I made an edit to that end
    – Machavity
    May 6 '21 at 23:21
  • 1
    Yup, same force with a longer level = more torque. So it can more easily rotate the large ship, which for some SW-physics reason has an effect on its direction of motion through space, as if it had a keel? Or if they're close enough that mostly just rotating it is sufficient to get the bow to hit the other ISD (with only the total momentum imparted by the corvette), then that's ok. Been a while since I watched the scene, but I assume there's similar space physics to swooping X-wings that get lift from space. (If so, then that effect is passive and doesn't require power?) May 7 '21 at 11:11

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