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What Is a Parsec in Star Wars?

What Is a Parsec in Star Wars?

In the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope, Han Solo claims that his ship, the Millennium Falcon, “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” 

This claim is confusing to some fans because, in reality, a parsec is a measure of distance, not time or speed. This has led some fans to ask, what is a parsec in Star Wars?

A parsec is the same thing in Star Wars as it is in the real world: it is used to measure great astronomical distances and is equal to about 3.26 light years.

What Is a Parsec in Star Wars?

What's In A Parsec? (Star Wars Fact #1)

A parsec doesn’t mean anything different in the Star Wars universe than it does in real life. It is not a measure of speed, as you might think from Han Solo’s comment about the Kessel Run. Instead, it measures large distances. 

A parsec is equal to about 3.26 light years in distance–in other words, traveling at light speed, it would take about three years and three months to travel one parsec.

With this in mind, you may be wondering why the term “parsec” was used to discuss the speed of the Millennium Falcon. The explanation is actually quite simple.

Chances are, George Lucas simply didn’t know what a parsec was when he wrote that boast from Han Solo into the script. 

Fans later came up with a plausible in-universe explanation for the line (more on that in a moment), but initially it was just a matter of ignorance. 

How Long Does It Take To Travel One Parsec in Star Wars? 

Traveling at light speed, it would take about 3.26 years, or three years and three months, to travel one parsec. This is because one parsec is equal to 3.26 light years.

Of course, most spaceships in Star Wars can travel much faster than this; for example, the Millennium Falcon traveled across the galaxy, thousands of light years, from Tatooine to Alderaan in likely just a few hours to a day.

That said, despite Han Solo’s claim, it’s unclear how much time actually elapsed while the Millennium Falcon completed the Kessel Run. 

STAR WARS : Kessel Run

What’s more, there’s no exact answer for how quickly a ship in Star Wars could travel one parsec because each ship travels faster than light speed in hyperspace

How much faster? That would depend on the ship. 

Regardless, most ships in Star Wars could probably travel one parsec in a matter of minutes or hours, as opposed to days or years.

How Long Is Twelve Parsecs in Star Wars?

Twelve parsecs is the same distance in Star Wars as it is in the real world. Each parsec equals about 3.26 light years, so that number, multiplied by twelve, would be about 39.12 light years.

As noted at the beginning of this article, twelve parsecs is the distance Han Solo traveled when he made the Kessel Run, a smuggler’s course that is normally 20 parsecs, or about 65.2 light years long.

Kessel Run

Fans have suggested that, by boasting about this twelve-parsec run, Han was indirectly making a claim about the speed of his ship. This is because he must have taken some serious shortcuts to shave eight parsecs off of the normal route.

To make these shortcuts, he probably would have had to pass close to black holes, stars, or other planetary bodies. To escape their gravitational pull, he would have had to be traveling insanely fast.

Again, it’s unclear how long it actually took him to make the Kessel Run or how fast he was actually going, since a parsec is a measure of distance and not time.

What Does Making the Kessel Run in Twelve Parsecs Mean?

Han Solo was boasting that the Falcon was capable of taking some big-time shortcuts through a dangerous course.

What is a Parsec and What does it mean to make the Kessel Run in 12 Parsecs

He might have also been boasting of his own piloting skills: his ability to find and take shortcuts that other pilots wouldn’t have been willing to try. 

The statement doesn’t explicitly show that the Falcon was fast, but it does imply the high speeds that would be needed to outrun the gravitational pull of black holes or planets.

What’s more, the statement shows that Han Solo was arrogant and reckless, but also incredibly good at what he did. 

Though we can’t determine from his words how long it took him to make the Kessel Run, it’s clear that he didn’t do it in the normal way–and that his unorthodox flying methods likely paid off for him.

Conclusion

In Star Wars, as in real life, a parsec is a measure of distance equal to 3.26 light years. Often, great astronomical distances are measured in parsecs.

Han Solo’s claim that the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” is impressive, since the Kessel Run was a 20-parsec course. 

But this statement doesn’t directly tell us about the Falcon’s speed; only that Han was probably taking a lot of shortcuts.