What The Hell Is A Parsec?


So we’ve been hearing about parsecs since Star Wars: A New Hope when Han Solo proclaims that his ship, The Millennium Falcon, made the infamous Kessel Run in only 12 parsecs. Han makes this claim in order to prove how fast the Falcon is but the problem is that a parsec is a unit of distance, not time.

So, first things first:

  1. A parsec is an actual astronomical unit of distance that we use in our own present time and galaxy.
  2. A lightyear is the distance that light travels in one year which is almost 6 TRILLION (yes, trillion with a T) miles.
  3. A parsec is 3.26 lightyears or 19 trillion miles.

Now, when Han made the “12 parsecs” claim it was during a conversation of how fast the Millennium Falcon is which doesn’t make sense since a parsec measures distance. However, it does make sense if the Kessel Run isn’t a race.

Star Wars: The Essential Atlas

The Kessel Run refers to the passage that a ship would usually take in order to safely navigate the cluster of black holes that serve as a sort of obstacle course on the way to and from the planet Kessel. If the Millennium Falcon is able to make the run in only 12 parsecs it means that Han deviated from the proven course and took a much riskier route that would place him closer to those black holes.

“But wait,” you protest, “that still doesn’t explain why Han says “12 parsecs” in order to convey to Obi-Wan Kenobi how fast the Millennium Falcon is. WTH?!”

Well, actually, it kinda does make sense. According to a Kyle Smith article for Wired.com, if the Falcon had to navigate a dangerous path around black holes (which should be impossible but let’s roll with it), then that means that it would have to exert a significant amount of speed/power in order to stay out of their gravitational pull.

So here’s to parsecs, for confusing and frustrating everyone from longtime Star Wars fans to astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Let’s hope Solo: A Star Wars Story finally puts the confusion to rest when it premieres in theaters on May 25, 2018.



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