Tag Archives: parsecs

The mystery of the Kessel Run

5 Feb

You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?…It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.

Han Solo

Mos Eisley Cantina in Tatooine. Two robed men are looking for an escort past an Imperial blockade off the planet. They are negotiating with a smirking lowlife and hairy, bearlike creature. The older of the two men asks if the lowlife’s ship is fast. That is when the lowlife utters his famous line.

What I never got about Han Solo’s line was that a parsec is a measure of distance and not time. I thought about it from time to time until one day, I figured it out while showering.

What I understand about traveling in hyperspace is that a ship cannot pass near massive objects, as the gravity of the object, such as a sun or planet, would pull the ship off course, or worse, out of hyperspace with disastrous effect. That is why everyone says “plot a course to X”, before jumping to hyperspace, and that is why they need navigational computers. Han Solo was able to make the Kessel Run in record time because he plotted routes that edged closer to gravity wells, shortening the length of the Run. Normally this is dangerous, but Han Solo, being a gambler, probably acted on his instinct and went for it.

I was going to draw some diagrams showing a gravity well and its effect on a ship traveling at FTL speeds, but I found a cool map and a fuller explanation of the Kessel Run here.

I just want you to know that I fully put this explanation together in the shower, using knowledge gathered from Einstein’s writings on the gravitational effect on space, and Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, in which ship-borne gravity generators are routinely used to prevent Rebel pilots from escaping to hyperspace.

There are many attempts at retconning this line to show that Solo is lying, but I stand by my explanation, and the following comment from Lucas himself bears out most of it.

In the commentary for Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope DVD, George Lucas mentions that the parsecs are due to the Millennium Falcon’s advanced navigational computer rather than its engines, so the navicomputer would calculate much faster routes than other ships could. 1