OK, so a few weeks back, I rewatched the first three Star Wars movies with son (and future geek) Tristan...
...and in the intervening time, my subconscious has worked overtime, and suddenly, it occurred to me the biggest tactical error the Empire made with the Death Star.
I'm sure you remember what happened in the movie... the Death Star arrives from Hyperspace on the other side of Yavin from Yavin IV (the moon the rebels are using for their base), and it takes half an hour for the Death Star to clear Yavin before destroying Yavin IV.
Now, remember, this movie's been out for well over 30 years, and I've seen it probably two dozen times or more. Yet this is the first time this has occurred to me.
Why the heck didn't they just fire the Death Star at Yavin itself?
I mean, surely the explosion of Yavin would've destroyed all its moons, including the fourth one, thereby ridding themselves of the rebels once and for all (or at least their greatest concentration).
Even if Yavin's explosion didn't immediately destroy Yavin IV, remember, the rebels' base was on a moon. The only thing holding it in place was the gravity of Yavin, which it orbited around. So let's say they blow up Yavin. Without anything to hold it into orbit, the absolute best-case scenario would be Yavin IV going into some kind of different orbit... but there's no way it would achieve the same orbit around Yavin's sun that Yavin did... it would likely either go into a new orbit closer to the sun (thus increasing the surface temp of the planet, probably beyond habitable levels) or it would be further from the sun (decreasing the surface temp, possibly even below Hoth's temperatures!).
Plus you can't entirely dismiss how the proximity of Yavin must've affected the tides and other ecological effects.
Of course, there's also a chance it wouldn't have achieved a new orbit... it could've just gone out of Yavin's system entirely and become lost in space.
Has this ever occurred to anyone else? I understand why it happened the way it did (Lucas did have his duly-issued Dramatic License, although it should've probably been expired after some of the stuff in the prequels)... has there ever been any explanation as to why it had to be this way in context of the movies?
Well, here's my own theory as to why it had to be that way...
The Death Star's destruction beam operates on the same power grid as its hyperspace drive. Therefore, when the Death Star emerges from Hyperspace, it takes time to recharge that power grid enough to fire their planetary destroyer beam (or whatever it might've been called). Since they had that half hour of time to recharge, then Grand Moff Tarkin probably figured they might as well use sublight drive to get a direct shot at the rebels (possibly there were resources on Yavin or one of its other moons the Empire wanted to acquire as well).
Update: houseofduck pointed me to this YouTube video:
I love it!