Saturday, 8 September 2012

How big should the Lego Death Star be?

A friend is currently building the Lego Death Star (set 10188)—a seriously impressive model with nearly 4,000 pieces that builds up to a sphere 40 cm in diameter.

Image copyright LEGO Group, used under terms of their Fair Play licence

I think I love it all the more because its “cutaway” design reminds me of the Palitoy Death Star playset from a long time ago:

Image copyright SpeedBreaker from the ToyArk forums, used by permission

(You can see more of it in this Toyark post and this guided tour on Star Wars New Zealand. And yes, I still have most of it... around here... somewhere).

But this got me thinking: obviously both the Lego playset and its Palitoy antecedent are way out-of-scale and depict the Death Star in a purely figurative sense. So, how big should the Lego Death Star be, to be in scale with the supplied figurines (minifigs, in Lego parlance)?

We need to know two things:
  • the size of the “real” Death Star
  • the scale of a minifig
Neither answer is completely straightforward.

The Lego Death Star is actually a mix of features of two different Death Stars, as featured in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi respectively. The second was supposedly larger—according to most sources much larger—than the first. The figures vary between references, but Wookiepedia favours a 160-km diameter for the the first, and a 900-km diameter for the second. For the purpose of this exercise, I will assume that:
  • the Lego set depicts the first Death Star (really, only the Emperor’s throne room is definitively a second Death Star feature) 
  • the first Death Star had a diameter of 160 kilometres.
The scale of a minifig is also problematic, because a minifig is not proportioned like a normal human:

Human figures are a work of NASA in the public domain; minifig created from the LDraw Parts Library and used under the terms of their licence

By comparison, the minifig is proportionally much wider than a human of the same height. Let’s ignore that and look only at height. Minifigs stand 4 cm tall. If an average human is around 170 cm tall, then the minifig represents a human at roughly 1:43 scale, close to the 0 scale used in model railways or the 1:48 scale (“quarter scale”) popular in the scale modelling of aircraft.

With these assumptions in place, the maths is now quite simple: 160 km divided by 43:

3.7 km! 

Yep; a Lego death Star in proportion to the minifigs would be nearly 4 kilometres across!

Just for fun, I thought I'd superimpose that over a map of Brisbane:

Brisbane photo copyright NearMap, used under the terms of their community licence

I know this won’t be very meaningful to anyone who’s never lived here. If that’s you, maybe you’d like to do the same with a map of your own city. It’s truly surprising how big a properly scaled Lego Death Star would need to be!

While looking for pictures of the old Palitoy Death Star playset, I found that Eric Druon of France has created his own Lego interpretation of it:

Copyright Eric Druon, used by permission of the creator

Visit Eric’s site for more pictures of this amazing creation. He also has original Lego creations for various other popular media franchises there—well worth a look! :) 


  1. Dude that is insane! Wow.
    The Lego set 10179 is meant to be the falcon in scale with mini-figues I believe (for your interest).

  2. Awesome post, man!
    I'm glad you use your powers for good and not evil!

  3. Dude thaz cool i was looking for (interviews i guess) for it cuz my little brother wants one but the price is WAY too high but that is SO cool i didnt know it should be that big thaz AMAZING!