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I was reading this question about the Rebel fleet's rendezvous point, and it occurred to me that this galaxy below looks familiar: Star Wars Galaxy

I can't tell from the image whether this is an artistic creation or an actual picture of a galaxy taken by NASA or some other space agency. (Considering the date, it might be the former) but I'm sure I have seen a Hubble image or something somewhere online that looks like this galaxy.

Is this picture real or at least based on a real astrophysical image captured by a telescope somewhere? If so, what is the "real world" name for the galaxy being depicted? If not, is there a similar galaxy that inspired this artistic version? What's the closest thing that is really out there that matches this image?

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    @DarthSatan Is this from the original release of the movie, though? Lord knows Lucas has edited the more recent releases, and it's possible a real galaxy was edited in. – Null Dec 9 '14 at 22:20
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    Anyway, to me the image seems clearly to be based on the Andromeda galaxy, but I'm not sure if I can put together an argument good enough for an answer. – user8719 Dec 9 '14 at 23:16
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    @DarthSatan - Andromeda is probably what most people think of when they think "galaxy". – Valorum Dec 10 '14 at 0:03
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    @Richard: surely the Milky Way Galaxy is slightly better known :-) – RemcoGerlich Dec 10 '14 at 8:33
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    @RemcoGerlich - Only from the inside. – Valorum Dec 10 '14 at 9:16
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The galaxy depicted appears to be nothing more than an artist's impression of a standard spiral galaxy. Telescope astronomers were able to capture images of Andromeda (M31) as far back as the late 1800s. Because of their popularity, these are the sorts of images that immediately say "galaxy" to most members of the public.

enter image description here

As you can see from these scans of "The Making of Empire Strikes Back" and "The Art of Star Wars : The Empire Strikes Back", the size, scale and shape of the galaxy were fully conceived by Star Wars artist Frank McQuarrie. There's no indication that he based these pictures on any specific galaxy.

enter image description here

For a bit of fun, you can see the true scale of the models used in the image below.

enter image description here


You may wish to note that Star Wars Made Easy identifies the object as a protostar rather than a galaxy, suggesting that it's very much smaller.

enter image description here

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    +1; your last pic definitely shows that the galaxy was a model and not a photo of a real one. Also compare with this (1899) photo of Andromeda, which is a closer match: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/51/Pic_iroberts1.jpg – user8719 Dec 10 '14 at 0:11
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    The bulge is definitely bigger and more prominent than Andromeda, but besides that it definitely looks like the most likely candidate. I'll leave the question open a bit longer in case there are any further answers, but it looks like yours is the best one so far. – user11521 Dec 10 '14 at 5:57
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Some discussions (like here) indicate that it is not real.

It does not actually exist. It was made from visual effects. Of course Lucas did base the VFX on several galaxial pictures. Also note that Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, five years before the launch of Hubble in 1985. And if you think about it, Return of the Jedi (1983) was released two years before the launch of the Hubble.

I was in the Navy when ESB came out, thus I never saw ESB until 1991 when I mustered out. I even thought it was a Hubble picture or Hubble based until I read the book Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back: Behind the Scenes. It was then that I realized the image was done through VFX. Amazing what VFX can do, even back then, 30+ years ago.

From http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/The_galaxy:

The Empire Strikes Back debate

At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, characters aboard the Rebel fleet see a celestial object from some distance away. Some fans have said that it rotates too fast to be a galaxy and at that distance a galaxy would not emit as much light as is portrayed in the film.

Some sources have said that the fleet spent some time hiding outside the galactic disk, probably intending to refer to this scene. According to the 1996 Tales of the Bounty Hunters story Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM, the object in the film is the galaxy, and the Rebel fleet had journeyed to a point in space far removed from the galactic plane. This point was not outside of the galactic plane, per se, but rather above the galactic plane.

Since the release of Tales of the Bounty Hunters, the object has been inconsistently identified. The Complete Star Wars Trilogy Scrapbook, first released in 1997, identifies the object as a spinning star formation. In 2002, the Episode II DVD-ROM Exclusive Content stated that the bright object may be the cluster known as the Rishi Maze. In 2003, Leland Chee confirmed on the StarWars.com Message Boards that the object was indeed the Star Wars galaxy. The film's director, Irvin Kershner, refers to the object as simply "a galaxy" on the Audio Commentary of the 2004 DVD release.

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    +1 for addressing the question of whether it even is a galaxy. A galaxy certainly wasn't my first thought of what it's supposed to be. I was thinking a quasar or pulsar or something similar. – jpmc26 Dec 10 '14 at 1:50
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    Also, I imagine that moving far enough out to get this kind of view would be a prohibitively long journey. – jpmc26 Dec 10 '14 at 1:55
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    @jpmc26, to be a quasar, it would have to be a very long time ago indeed, and it would have been glowing X-radiation, not so much visible light! Trish Ling, the first source you quote seems to have at least one date a bit mixed up: Hubble did not launch until 1990. – dfeuer Dec 10 '14 at 3:36
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    @jpmc26 A quasar wouldn't be showing light in that manner. It's unambiguously a spiral galaxy. – TylerH Dec 10 '14 at 14:19
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    My first impression of this object when I saw ESB as a kid was: it's a galaxy - and first impressions is what Lucas was probably going for rather than in-depth analysis. After repeat viewings and seeing that the object was rotating impossibly fast for a galaxy (you cannot see galaxies rotating with the naked eye!), I thought perhaps it's the core of a protostellar cloud, or maybe even a black hole surrounded by a bright debris disk. – RobertF Dec 10 '14 at 15:44
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I am an astronomer and I love Star Wars - it is very possible that MAYBE one of ANDROMEDA's smaller M32 or M110 are the actual star wars "galaxy" is one of the smaller dwarf galaxies that orbit Andromeda .... M110 or M32 as shown here. ALSO- if you remember E.T. was from a galaxy 3 Million light years away which ALSO is Andromeda ( 2.4 MLY ) plus from the smaller orbiting Galaxy would just push it to 3 MLY - E.T is from the Star Wars galaxy as shown in EP1 as his species are part of the Galactic Senate. So if you are in M32 or M110 it's possible to look out and see this massive galaxy floating in space from above it's galactic plane .....

enter image description here

enter image description here

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it is a protostar, not a galaxy http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Rebel_rendezvous_point

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    While this may be correct, it is better to copy the relevant portions of the link here. This way a dead link will not make your answer suffer. – Skooba Oct 23 '17 at 15:39
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I always thought it was the Triangulum for the very E.T. reason stated, being 3.7 light years away. Also being only 3/5 the size of the Milky Way would help the inhabitants to have explored/frequently travel their galaxy at least SLIGHTLY easier. Always what I thought anyway. Also if the galaxy pictured represents the Andromeda Galaxy it would still make sense as the two galaxies are gravitationally bound and closer to one another than we are to the Andromeda. That could be their point of view OF the Andromeda Galaxy from within the Triangulum Galaxy.

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    Wild guesswork isn't really what we do here. We're looking for proof, or at least reasoned supposition. – Valorum Apr 13 '16 at 8:21
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    I am sorry if that came off as wild guesswork, but I actually HAVE researched this before and provided some facts...were you wanting sources I'm assuming? – user64679 Apr 13 '16 at 8:26
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    Yes sources and evidence will support your answer. – Moogle Apr 13 '16 at 8:27
  • Precisely so. As Moogle says, offering a source that confirms this will turn it from a bad answer into a great one. I think you'll struggle to connect ET with Star Wars though, let alone identify Triangulum as being specifically the galaxy next to the one that's far. far away. – Valorum Apr 13 '16 at 8:29
  • I understand...I was actually trying to suggest the Triangulum Galaxy WAS the galaxy far, far away and the The Galaxy seen in ESB was the Andromeda, which the Triangulum is much closer to (explaining the clear image they get), as the Triangulum Galaxy more or less orbits the Andromeda, and is a full size spiral galaxy some 60,000 light years across. Ill see if I can find some online sources because I'm not so in the mood to photo textbooks and post. – user64679 Apr 13 '16 at 8:42

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