Users see Star Wars overkill as NASA says it spotted ‘a cosmic lightsaber’

Posted at 12:09 AM, Dec 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-19 00:09:15-05

With Stars Wars fever raging across the Internet over the release of the latest installment in the movie franchise, one organization was making sure it didn’t miss out on the buzz.

Outer-space adventure is right in NASA’s wheelhouse, and the agency conveniently busted out a vaguely Star Wars-themed image on Thursday as “The Force Awakens” opened in theaters.

Facebook might have offered users a chance to add a lightsaber to their profile photos, but NASA went bigger, claiming its Hubble Space Telescope had photographed “what looks like a cosmic, double-bladed lightsaber.”

The space agency’s post showing spectacular beams of yellow-orange light garnered thousands of likes and retweets. But the Star Wars link was more artistic license than hard science.

‘It looks nothing like a lightsaber’

The “lightsaber” beams radiating from what NASA rather optimistically described as “a dark, Jedi-like cloak of dust” are in fact jets of superheated material shooting out from a newborn star, it explained.

Plenty of people praised the majestic beauty of the image. But others were unimpressed by NASA’s attempt to use the force to its advantage.

“It looks nothing like a lightsaber, guys,” grumbled Charles Roberts on Facebook, adding the hashtag #starwarspandering.

“Maybe you should hire astronomers and not scifi nerds,” quipped Twitter user @Pazzjurist.

A post too far?

NASA has been lauded for its hugely successful social media strategy, but some people felt it had gone too far with this effort to draw attention.

“This picture, it’s interesting by its own, no need to relate it to the lame Star Wars movies,” commented Facebook user Emmanuel Hughes.

NASA did acknowledge that its image falls short on one Star Wars measure.

“This celestial lightsaber does not lie in a galaxy far, far away, but rather inside our home galaxy, the Milky Way,” it said.