Scientifically Speaking: The Kessel Run in Star Wars

Around the Galaxy: Star Wars News & Notes - May 31, 2018

The following includes spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Solo
Image: Disney

For a film that “nobody” wanted and “nobody” is clamoring to see, Solo: A Star Wars Story spawned a surprising number of thinkpieces.

The infamous “Kessel Run” is at the center of many of those stories.

“According to the new canon revealed in Solo, the Kessel Run is normally 20 parsecs long, and the mines are now controlled by an organization of drug dealers, the Pyke Syndicate,” wrote Forbes’ JV Chamary. “In the film, Han and crew don’t smuggle spice, but a raw material for hyperspace fuel called ‘coaxium,’ which is stored in vaults under the mines. That cargo is kept cool in canisters and must reach a refinery before it gets too warm and explodes. As crime lord Dryden Vos says, to deliver the coaxium in time, “You’d need an incredibly fast ship and a brilliant pilot.”

The ship and the pilot were conveniently available, so Chamary says Solo sets out to solve “The Kessel Run Problem.”

To Run Or Not To Run

Solo
The Kasdans (Disney)

To many, this was a problem that need not be solved. You can add Jonathan Kasdan to the number of fans who wanted Solo to avoid that particular detail.

He told the LA Times:

I said ‘Really, do we have to?’ Because it’s such a complicated bit of logic, and solving it was really challenging. We spent a lot of time arguing about how it could work [and how] the language of what [Han] says in that one scene shot years ago that you know George [Lucas] was just sitting there thinking, This sounds cool: ‘I did it in 12 parsecs’ — could be flushed out into a fully fledged coherent sequence that was satisfying and fun. I’m thrilled with how it came out, but it was one of the daunting elements of this always.

However, Lawrence Kasdan–or the Kasdan who wrote the Empire Strikes Back–very much wanted to tackle this essential moment.

The elder Kasdan told the Times:

I was drawn to take the job because it suggested to me [that] I get to see how he’s formed, I get to see how he met Chewie — because this is really a love story between them — and very quickly I thought, ‘We’ve heard a lot about the Kessel Run. I want to see it.

So, we got to see it, too. But did we understand it? I’ll admit I was not completely sure.

Star Wars Cliff’s Notes: Solo’s Kessel Run

Solo
Disney

Chamary “helped” out, writing:

Although the shortest distance between two points is a straight line (without using a wormhole), the movie states “You can’t plot a direct course to Kessel.” This applies at a small scale, flying through normal space in places like the Maelstrom, but also to a large jump across the galaxy in hyperspace, as there are many dangerous obstacles to avoid, everything from tiny micrometeoroids to huge star clusters. So instead of going directly from A to B, a ship would have to travel from A to Z via points B, C and D etc, meaning that ships could take different paths to Kessel.

Don’t worry, Charary provides a diagram.

The Kessel Run in Legends

If you need more, have a look at a pre-Solo video produced by Star Wars Explained. The clip includes a guess about the new movie’s Kessel Run that comes awfully close to what was featured.

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John Bishop

A graduate of Boston and Northeastern universities, John Bishop became the beat reporter for BostonBruins.com prior to the B’s 2006-07 hockey season. While with the Bruins, “Bish” traveled North America and Europe to cover the Black & Gold’s every move via laptop, blog, and smart phone. The co-author of two books, Bygone Boston and Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, John covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the B’s 2011 championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke in central Massachusetts.

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