While answering this, I ran into the following assertion by OP:

from what I can tell, Vader wasn't aware that Luke was in the Millennium Falcon when the Death Star captured it after blowing up Alderaan

I'm somewhat unclear on whether that's correct or not, so the question is:

  1. Was Vader aware that Luke was on the Millennium Falcon with Han and Obi-Wan during Leia's rescue?

  2. If he was, what was the point at which he became aware, and how? E.g., during the rescue/escape? At Yavin? At some later day?

  • Just to be clear, I'm looking for direct canon support, not theories/guesses. My answer at the linked question has my theories/guesses. Jul 27, 2015 at 2:45
  • Are you asking about when he knew that Luke, who is his son, participated in the rescue, or just when he knew that a guy named Luke participated?
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 27, 2015 at 5:12
  • I'm guessing the Death Star has CCTV...
    – Valorum
    Jul 27, 2015 at 5:33
  • I can't think of an instance where it's mentioned that he does know. I'm assuming he'd remember seeing him, then connect the two incidents together when he stepped out of the shadows in Empire Strikes Back.
    – Valorum
    Jul 27, 2015 at 5:39
  • 1
    @WadCheber - that some dude named Luke Skywalker helped Leia. Jul 28, 2015 at 1:00

3 Answers 3


There is no evidence that Vader knew Luke was aboard the Millennium Falcon when it was captured. To suggest that he should have been able to detect Luke's presence, since Luke was his son, makes no sense. If being near one of his children was all it took for Vader to notice them, he should have known Leia was his daughter as soon as he met her. As far as we know, this didn't happen.

The only thing Vader knew upon first seeing the Millennium Falcon was that it had a certain "guy who chopped off both my legs and one of my arms" vibe about it:

There were cameras and microphones in the detention center, and although the cameras were destroyed, the microphones were not:

Apparently there were audio... links between this detention station and elsewhere.
- Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope novelization, George Lucas and Alan Dean Foster

So there were audio recordings of everything that happened in the detention block, so - assuming that he was smart enough to check them after Leia escaped - Vader would have gotten all the information he needed from Luke's introduction:

[Luke, dressed as a storm trooper, opens the door to Leia's detention cell.]

Princess Leia Organa: Aren't you a little short for a storm trooper?

Luke Skywalker: Huh? Oh, the uniform. [removes his helmet] I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you!

Princess Leia Organa: You're who?

Luke Skywalker: I'm here to rescue you! Look, I've got your R2-unit and I'm here with Ben Kenobi!

Princess Leia Organa: Ben Kenobi? He's here!?

Note: Even if there hadn't been recordings from the detention center, there were presumably wireless communications scanners, which would have recorded Luke's chatter with C-3PO, as well as a recording from the hangar control room where Luke, Han, Obi Wan, Chewbacca, R2, and 3PO went after getting off the Falcon:

BEN I don’t think you boys can help. I must go alone.

HAN Whatever you say. I’ve done more than I bargained for on this trip already.

LUKE I want to go with you.

BEN Be patient, Luke. Stay and watch over the droids.

Obviously, Vader already knew that Obi Wan had been there (because he killed him), and he would have been able to piece together the rest of the story pretty quickly. A few days before the Millennium Falcon showed up, it had blasted its way through a blockade. Just before that happened, an old man in a robe had lopped off someone's arm with a lightsaber in the Cantina. The old man was with a blond kid. Days prior to this, the droids with the stolen Death Star plans had jettisoned from the consular ship and landed on Tatooine. All of this happened not far from the house where Vader's stepfather lived. The stepfather and his wife were dead, and Imperial stormtroopers had killed them. This was the Skywalker family, and obviously, Luke had been living with them.

Everything Vader needed to know, virtually presented on a silver platter.

As to when this happened, I would think that the first thing Vader did after the Falcon escaped (and after the people Vader chose as scapegoats had been Force strangled) was to find out how the Princess had gotten away. This probably happened within hours at the most. It probably would have taken another day or two for Vader to hear about what had happened on Tatooine.

  • See also: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/96620/44025
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 28, 2015 at 1:57
  • Oh come on. You've got strong AI walking around and you haven't got strong symmetric crypto for the paired communication devices? You gotta be kidding me.
    – Joshua
    Jun 10, 2018 at 3:11

Jamil's comment on the original question:

In the latest Star Wars comics (taking place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back), Vader hires Boba Fett to track down the rebel pilot that blew up the Death Star. Fett's tracking leads him to Kenobi's house on Tatooine where he battles Luke. Luke escapes but Fett reports back to Vader saying he found the pilot and specifically says his name is "Skywalker." Upon hearing this Vader's emotions get the better of him.

If you don't consider this canon, then it occurred between episodes IV and V, without explanation. To me the real conundrum is when did Vader learn that one of the men who helped princess Leia escape, was his son, Luke.

Later in the series: "My son, is with them." emphasis, Vader's.

  • 1
    If you accept the idea that there were surveillance systems all over the place, Vader would have checked the recordings and heard Luke saying "I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you... I'm here with Ben Kenobi" as soon as he opened Leia's cell.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 28, 2015 at 1:25

He knew that the pilot that destroyed the Death Star was strong in the force and he had just killed Obi-Wan not 6 hours earlier (that time frame is an estimate) so it isn't that much of a stretch for him to assume that Obi-Wan had taught this pilot then he remembers a boy on the death star that shouted out Obi-Wans name when he was killed then he later learns that the pilot was Luke and he puts 2 and 2 together

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