Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Galactic Travel

I have been working on a gazetteer lately, trying to quantify the hyperspace travel times between a large group of planets all across the Star Wars galaxy. It has been an interesting journey, with the Essential Atlas at my side, digging into facts about the structure of real galaxies in an attempt to solve the problem.

Many Star Wars sources deliberately leave out details on the thorny issue of hyperspace travel, likely because of the vast number of contradictory tidbits of information out there. One of the common quotes in this arena is "Ships travel at the speed of plot."

As in, "Forget about it."

While this free and easy notion might work well for a movie, it grates on my nerves when thinking about an otherwise quasi-realistic Sci-Fi universe. We need to know how long it takes to get from point A to point B, and it should be consistent and understandable. There is a lot of hand-waving in the Star Wars canon about how local space effects can make travel times much different than one would guess, based simply on the straight line distance between trip endpoints.

As a first order approximation, I am measuring the distance between each planet pair on my list (see below) on the master galaxy map found in the Essential Atlas. I have a couple of reference distances to compare against in order to convert my distance measurements (in inches) into light years (namely, the distances from Coruscant, Tatooine, Naboo, Hoth, and Yavin to the Galactic Core). At this point, I will have to figure out a hyperspace travel speed in terms of light years per hour (for the x1 drive multiplier). Then things get does one incorporate things like the variable density of stars throughout the galaxy? For my first order approximation, I won't bother with this. I tend to think these sorts of arguments are more "retcon" type ideas, generated after-the-fact, made to gloss over the widely varying apparent travel times from different quoted sources. Stay tuned for more updates as my work continues...

For the sake of argument, here is the list of planets in my gazetteer thus far: Abregado-rae, Alderaan, Ansion, Arda, Bespin, Bogden, Bonadan, Bothawui, Brentaal, Cato Neimoidia, Corellia, Coruscant, Dagobah, Dantooine, Dorvalla, Endor, Eriadu, Felucia, Fondor, Gamorr, Geonosis, Hoth, Kamino, Kashyyyk, Kuat, Lianna, Malastare, Mandalore, Mon Calamari, Mustafar, Muunilist, Mygeeto, Naboo, Nal Hutta, Onderon, Ord Mantell, Polis Massa, Rodia, Ryloth, Saleucami, Subterrel, Sullust, Taanab, Tatooine, Thyferra, Tierfon, Utapau, Yavin.

Did I miss any you would include? Tell me in the comments section.

Another question for you: how long should it take for a smuggler in a light freighter to cross the entire galaxy? A day or two? A week?

As an arbitrary point or reference, a group of people in a motor home could go from New York City to Los Angeles in something like 45 hours or so (that's a bit like a light freighter crew crossing the galaxy, isn't it?)


  1. Multiple competing benchmarks in terms of "distance to Galactic Core" measurements in light years (taken from planet entries on Wikipedia) then compared to distance measurements from the galaxy map (in inches):

    Coruscant (10,000 ly to core): 1 inch on map (10,000 ly/in)
    Tatooine (43,000 ly to core): 5.54 in on map (7761 ly/in)
    Naboo (34,000 ly to core): 4.38 in on map (7762 ly/in)
    Hoth (50,250 ly to core): 4.84 in on map (10, 382 ly/in)
    Yavin (40,500 ly to core): 4.74 in on map (8544 ly/in)
    120,000 ly across entire galaxy, size of map (8528 ly/in)

    I chose to ditch the Coruscant and Hoth values as outliers, then averaged the other inputs for an overall conversion factor of 8149 ly/in for my map.

    1. I don't buy that Coruscant is *exactly* 10,000 light years from the Galactic Core. Sounds improbable, to say the least.

  2. The next problem is hyperspace travel speeds.

    One source (Star Wars Behind the Magic CD-ROM) apparently says the Falcon made the trip from Tatooine to Alderaan in 6.5 hours (making it roughly 7000 ly/hr for the x0.5 hyperdrive; or 3500 ly/hr for the standard x1).

    Another source (The Krytos Trap novel in the X-wing series) claims it takes the x1 hyperdrive of an X-wing 8 hours to make that same trip...suggesting a 5700 ly/hr value for the x1 hyperdrive.

    Apparently another definitive travel time is mentioned in the X-wing novel Bacta War (for a trip between Thyferra and Sluis Van). I will have to look that one up at home tonight.

    1. Unfortunately, the Bacta War (also by Michael Stackpole) has a large number of very specific references to the hyperspace travel times needed for both X-wings (x1 hyperdrive) and Super-class Star Destroyer Lusankaya and ISD-II Virulence (both with x2 hyperdrives) to make the trip between the Yag'Dhul system and Thyferra.

      12 hours in hyperspace for the X-wing; 24 for the larger ships.

      The MASSIVE problem is that these two systems, according to the Essential Atlas map, are almost right on top of one another...they are 15 times *closer* to each other than Tatooine and Alderaan (a trip which Stackpole says takes an X-wing 8 hours).


    2. Bacta War also states very clearly that the Interdictor-class heavy cruiser Aggregator (x2 hyperdrive), 'rented' from Admiral Teradoc, makes the trip to Alderaan in 12 hours (presumably from Teradoc's home base of Centares in the Maldrood Sector).

      This is a trip 67% as long as the Tatooine to Alderaan trip, and would work out to make a x1 hyperdrive speed be ~5100 ly/hr (instead of the 5700 ly/hr value from other references).

      In the same ball park, however.

    3. Yag'Dhul needs to be located over half a galaxy away from Thyferra for these numbers to jive. Basically it would have to be right near the Corporate Sector (no other spot in the galaxy is far enough away and still inhabited by planets!)

  3. By the way, using the lower hyperspace speed number above (from Behind the Magic), it would take a x1 hyperdrive 34 hours to cross the galaxy. The x2 multiplier used in a stock light freighter would have you riding for 68 hours.

    Using the higher number, it would change to x1: 21 hours (x2: 42 hours).

    On the order of the time needed for the cross-country road trip I mentioned above!

  4. I think I'll go with the Class 1 hyperdrive (x1) having a hyperspace speed of 5700 ly/hr.

    Just feels right, to me.

  5. The Clone Wars, Season 4, episode 1 "Water Wars":

    Mace Windu tells Anakin, Padme, and Captain Ackbar that reinforcements (Ashoka, Kit Fisto, and a company of clone troopers) will arrive " the end of the day."

    Using the (itself questionable*) 0.6 hyperdrive rating for the Acclamator I-class vessel, found on Wookiepedia, we see that, using my proposed Gazetteer, such a trip would take 5.5 hours in hyperspace. That gives the clones time to rush aboard before they leave.

    *It is unlikely that a troop carrying capital ship can travel through hyperspace faster than a starfighter or a light freighter, but there you have it.