You've Been Wrong About Where the Death Star Trench Was for Your Entire Life

Image: Death Star, Lucasfilm
Image: Death Star, Lucasfilm

If you were asked to point to the trench that housed the first Death Star’s exhaust port, where would you point? If you pointed at the big obvious seam running along the Death Star’s equator, I am sorry, but you are wrong. But don’t feel too bad—it turns out even the people at Industrial Light & Magic thought that was the answer.


Yesterday, visual effects artist Todd Vaziri posted a story on his blog, FXRants, which he’s been holding in for a year.

Here’s Vaziri remembering how he discovered where the trench that Luke and his fellow X-Wing pilots traversed in A New Hope really was:

Nearly everybody points at the equatorial trench of the Death Star. I asked dozens of die-hard fans, including many co-workers at Industrial Light & Magic, and nearly every single person pointed to the equatorial trench. If you asked me, I would also have said the equatorial trench.

In fact, this came up during ILM “Rogue One” dailies one day. Computer Graphics Supervisor Vick Schutz and Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll were chatting about the details of our computer graphics version of the Death Star, and Knoll casually remarked that the trench run in “Star Wars” is a longitudinal line on the Death Star (meaning, a north-south trench).

Most of us in the room were dumbfounded. “What did he say?”

As Vaziri himself then goes on to explain, in detail, it makes perfect sense that we’d all assume the big, equatorial line in the middle is where the exhaust port would be, even though it’s clearly much larger than the trench in the trench run and has a bunch of lights that don’t appear there. But that’s where the Death Star’s hangar bays are located, where TIE Fighters launch from, and where the Millennium Falcon was tractor beamed into (which is actually another sign that should make it clear it’s not the trench, as the two look nothing alike).

Instead, as Vaziri points out, the trench runs perpendicular to the equator, which everyone would know if we’d all just paid attention to General Jan Dodonna’s briefing to the Rebel pilots where it is clearly shown:


(Man, no one ever pays attention in meetings. Not even in Star Wars.)

Go read all of Vaziri’s post, if for no other reason than his excellent discourse on why so many of us assumed the wrong thing for so long. And if this is news to you, as it was for so many others, take heart and know that you were in very good company.


[h/t Matt Galvin]

Katharine is the Associate Director of Policy and Activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the former managing editor of io9. She writes about technology policy and pop culture.



I never understood why the Death Star needed an exhaust port in the first place. What is it exhausting?