A man who was taking publicity shots for a flying school returned home to find he had captured images of spacecraft from the new Star Wars film.
Matthew Myatt originally thought his pictures of the Millennium Falcon and an X-Wing fighter were experimental aircraft at Greenham Common, Berkshire.
He said: “It wasn’t too clear until I viewed the picture and then realised what it was. I grew up with Star Wars so I started jumping around.”
Episode VII is being filmed in the UK.
‘Falcon paint job’
The images sparked excitement among Star Wars fans on the internet.
Dolphin558 wrote on www.theforce.net: “Wow. I had heard the Millennium Falcon would be in Episode VII but it looks like X-Wings will make an appearance as well.”
Jacklyn Thrapp tweeted: “That is amazing.” Char10tti3 tweeted: “At least it’s not all CGI.”
Another fan, @ACQUlESCE, added: “Looks like the falcon got a paint job.”
Tom Cronin wrote: “Who’d’ve guessed filmmakers still build physical models?”
he picture, taken above Greenham Common, a former RAF airbase, appears to show a partly-built Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s beloved spaceship.
Also visible is an X-Wing fighter, although it is mostly covered from view.
Mr Myatt, who works at Airbourne Aviation flying club as a simulations engineer, was photographing one plane from another during a flight from the school’s base at Popham Airfield, Micheldever, in Hampshire.
“It was one of those unbelievable moments”
He said: “I didn’t know it was there, and we flew down and did some orbits. It was based around the old cruise missile silo.
“It wasn’t until I got back last night and started going through the images that it just jumped out at me.
“I was quite stunned. It was like, ‘wow’. That’s how the picture came about, purely by luck.
“I had to go and grab my son who’s a big Star Wars fan and get him to come and look at the picture and pinch me and make sure I’d seen what I’d seen.
“It was one of those unbelievable moments.”
Disney, which owns Lucasfilm, the company behind the Star Wars films, declined to comment on the pictures.
Jordan Farley, writer for SFX magazine, said the airbase was a possible filming location “because it’s a big open space and they’re going to need a lot of space”.
And the Falcon’s “half” appearance can be put down to modern filming techniques, he explained.
“They may be planning to shoot from one side and have a practical model, and extend it with computer graphics, because it’s incredibly expensive to build a prop of this size.”
As well as filming at Pinewood Studios since May, parts of Episode VII have also been shot in Abu Dhabi and on Skellig Michael, Ireland.
The film will see the return of the three principal characters from the original trilogy – Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
Ford broke his leg on set in June while filming a scene involving a door on the Falcon, causing a delay in shooting.
The movie is due in cinemas in December 2015.