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I know this has been a long debated question among Star Wars enthusiasts, but when Han Solo said that he made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs did he actually know what he was talking about?

During the scene Han really does seem to be talking about the time it took him to make the run. When he is talking to Obi Wan he is trying to persuade him that the Falcon is the fastest ship in the Galaxy, but if he were truly referring to the distance he made the run in, it would be more referring to his pilot skills, not the ship's speed. Could it have been that he just misspoke, or was his "I made it in 12 parsecs" really referring to the distance of the run.

This wiki article agrees with the latter of the two:

Solo was not referring directly to his ship's speed when he made this claim. Instead, he was referring to the shorter route he was able to travel by skirting the nearby Maw black hole cluster, thus making the run in under the standard distance.

All of the contradicting pieces of evidence have made me wonder:

  • Did Han know what a parsec was?
  • Was he just trying to impress Obi Wan with big words, not knowing who he was talking to?
  • Was it an error in the screen play?
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I believe (hence the comment) that this was just a screen play error that many fans picked up on and eventually fixed with the explanation quoted by wiki after the Jedi Search book, which introduced the Maw. –  Mike Ramirez Jul 11 '12 at 17:02
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The wiki explanation doesn't explain how it would be possible for him to even travel 12 parsecs in a ship that can only go "point 5 past light speed". At 1.5c it would take you almost 20 years to travel 12 parsecs. Clearly Han didn't spend 20 years doing the Kessel run. –  Gorchestopher H Jul 11 '12 at 17:33
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@MikeRamirez - the actual proper retcon was in Han Solo trilogy which described the exact circumstances of the (in)famous fast run. I think it was "Rebel Dawn", book 3 –  DVK Jul 11 '12 at 18:17
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It was completely intentional. Obviously an attempt by Han to see if he had a couple of rubes he could con and sell to Jabba. Han knew what he was talking about the whole time. –  Chad Jul 11 '12 at 18:19
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@GorchestopherH - .5 past light speed refers to the class (it has a class 0.5 hyperdrive, with class 0 being infinte speed) –  SSumner Jul 11 '12 at 20:22

5 Answers 5

It was an error in the screen play that was retconed later. Wookeeipedia Kessel Run article say that :

In the A New Hope novelization, Han says "standard time units" rather than "parsecs."

it also say that :

In the revised fourth draft of A New Hope in 1976, the description for "Kessel Run" is put as follows:

It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs! Ben reacts to Solo's stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation.

But it was still a mismatch of a distance unit in place of time unit. They that had to fix that assertion in the extended universes.

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I'm pretty sure that in one of the books, Han explains that the Kessel Run is normally a 18 parsec route and that he could make it in 12 by travelling insanely close to the maw cluster, which requires a very good navigator/computer, sharp piloting skills and a whole lot of guts. I can't remember which book was in, though, but perhaps this added trivia can help someone else remember! –  Dungarth Jul 11 '12 at 20:25
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@Dungarth, it was for sure mentioned in Jedi Academy Trilogy (I'm not sure what's original name of that, I'm translating from Polish translation) - you know, Han Solo was travelling to Kessel, near those all black holes, before getting to Maw facility to find admiral Daala; I remember it being also mentioned somewhere else. –  Griwes Jul 11 '12 at 20:33
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@Dungarth as DVK sait here it was in Han Solo trilogy. But it was still retcon : something added after the fact to patch some error. –  DavRob60 Jul 11 '12 at 20:33
    
@Griwes: Yes!!! that's it! He was also probably explaining it to Kyp at some point (as a means of showing off, most likely :p ). –  Dungarth Jul 11 '12 at 20:37
    
@DavRob60 : I never said it wasn't a retcon. In fact, it was a pretty blatant one. But it was still made in the E-U, so it can only be considered a C-Canon level retcon, and not G-Canon. It was more likely the author being a bit playful and taking it onto himself to perform the retcon in a way that didn't make anyone look bad. –  Dungarth Jul 11 '12 at 20:41

In the Han Solo Trilogy (I believe the last book), Han drops his load of drugs to save some Corellian slave kids from the Empire. The Empire comes after him and he runs through the Kessel sector, running closer to the Maw and thereby shortening the distance of his trip. This is how he outruns the Empire and rescues the children. He returns to Corellia and receives the Corellian Bloodstripe (the yellow one on his pants) for his act of valor/honor. Of course he also finds out that Jabba has put a hit on him for dropping the drugs. He needs to find some fast cash to pay Jabba back and ends up on Tattoine... where history is made.

Hopefully my details aren't too far off, it's been a few years since I've read the books. As a retcons usually go, this one was nicely done. Probably because Lucas wasn't the one who wrote it. "A New Hope" was a terrible book IMO.

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I'm pretty sure it was a scriptwriting error.

There was a well-finessed retcon in one of the novels.

Basically, it said that hyperdrives were rated by acceleration capacity. The better the rating of your hyperdrive, the closer you could fly to a gravity well without being pulled out of hyperspace. Therefore, with a superior hyperdrive, the Falcon could not only fly faster, but fly a shorter course because it could skirt closer to obstacles. For example, the Falcon could make the Kessel run in 12 parsecs when a normal ship might have to run a 15 or 18 course.

Think of trying to run out an inside-the-park home run in baseball wearing cleats as opposed to, oh... flip-flops.

I don't know about the Han Solo trilogy (so there may have been one there, as well), and I don't remember it from the Jedi Academy trilogy.

For some reason, I remember it being in the first X-Wing series of novels.

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Actually, making it in twelve parsecs could be a factor of speed. In order to fly close to large objects, you would have to be flying fast enough to not be pulled into them by their gravity. The faster the ship, the closer it can fly to large objects, hence making it possible to shave distance off of a journey. Without knowing the details involved in the kessel run, it is theoretically possible that there are several massive objects like black holes that must be avoided. A faster ship could stay closer to these without getting pulled into them and thus keep a straighter line resulting in a shorter distance travelled than for a slower ship that had to go further around them.

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Han was bragging about his navigational skills. When speed and time are more or less constant, distance becomes the only variable. Whoever can travel from point A to point B in a manner closest to a straight line, is reaching point B faster. As Han explains to a panicky Luke: if they flew right through a star or bounced too close to a supernova because of hasty navigational calculations, that would be bad.

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