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In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, once the Starkiller Base has depleted the star it is drawing power from, is it supposed to travel to another star where it can draw more power? Or is it non-mobile and supposed to fire a few, limited shots only? Or can it somehow reuse the star it is drawing power from, even after it has been depleted?

Its name suggests that it will "kill" or completely deplete the star it is drawing power from, but I haven't noticed an indication in the film that the Starkiller Base can travel to other stars.

  • 12
    Well, technically if it completely absorbed the star it was orbiting, without the star going nova, it would stop orbiting that star... because it no longer exists. The planet would then slingshot in the leftover direction. With a bit of planning, they could actually target the next system and start over once it arrives and starts orbiting a new star. It would just take... a while. – Vogie Dec 31 '15 at 16:43
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    The way I interpreted it was that it drew the energy of the sun, but once it stopped drawing the energy the sun would just start up again. It's like a generator rather than a battery -- you can take all the energy that a generator produces, but that doesn't kill the generator. – iayork Jan 2 '16 at 17:38
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    @iayork - That was my interpretation. They somehow extracted all of the energy being output from the star into space, but only for a few minutes. – Valorum Jan 2 '16 at 17:59
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    @Richard, weren't there forests visible at some point during the rebel attack? If the sun (or even "one of the suns") had gone out for more than an hour or so after the initial firing, they'd have all frozen solid. Same goes for travelling to another solar system, I think. – Harry Johnston Jan 7 '16 at 2:08
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    @Richard: OK, but there's a difference between "subzero" and "the atmosphere liquefies". But I haven't actually done the math to see how quickly that would happen. – Harry Johnston Jan 7 '16 at 20:08
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+100

UPDATE 2016/01/07

As per Pablo Hidalgo on Twitter (Usual disclaimer: his Twitter account explicitly says anything he says is "not to be cited as canon", so this is not fully canonically proven yet)

Steele Wars Podcast ‏@SteeleWars Jan 2
Any insight on if #StarKillerBase can redrain the same sun?
Or can it use far away suns from other systems? @pablohidalgo (please/thanks)

Pablo Hidalgo @pablohidalgo @SteeleWars
The Starkiller is mobile. Able to travel distances in hyperspace amid a very populous star cluster.

UPDATE 2016/01/06

Looks like WGA script confirms what we see onscreen, to a degree. It does consume its sun. However, what's made a bit unclear in the script is, whether it consumes the entire Sun in one shot. The way the wording seems to me, is that it consumes the sun SLOWLY.

A vast view of the planet -- a MASSIVE SOLARVAC ARRAY surrounds a port TEN MILES IN DIAMETER.
MILLIONS OF PANELS turn on the ARRAY -- a wave of BRILLIANT REFLECTIONS. Suddenly, like a planetary-scale TESLA COIL LINE OF ENERGY, THE POWER OF THE SUN begins to TRAVEL DOWN to the Starkiller Base planet.

and in Finn's briefing

FINN
It uses the power of the sun. As the weapon is charged, the sun is drained until it disappears.

and

They follow Finn on the snowy hike. On the horizon, THE LASER SIPHON SHOOTING INTO THE SKY, SLOWLY SUCKING THE SUN DRY.
INT. STARKILLER BASE - CONTROL ROOM - DAY
Technicians at work, the SUN SUCKING seen in the window behind him.



Original answer

According to the novelization, the energy of the sun is only used to help the weapon get ready - the weapon's offensive energy itself doesn't come from the sun, it comes from Dark Energy.

“As near as I understand it,” Finn continued, “enormous arrays of specially designed collectors use the power of a sun to attract and send dark energy to a containment unit at the core of the planet, where it is held and built up inside that containment unit until the weapon is ready to fire.”
“Impossible,” Ackbar insisted. “Although we know there is more dark energy in the universe than anything else, and that it exists everywhere around us, it is so diffuse that it can barely be detected. Let alone concentrated.” Finn persisted, despite the discomfort he felt at disagreeing with someone of Ackbar’s rank and experience. “It can be, and it is,” he responded with certainty.
Statura, at least, seemed ready to believe. “If the engineering could be worked out,” he observed, “one would have access to an almost literally infinite source of energy.”

There is no mention of travel capability in the novelization, but it doesn't seem that it's needed - the energy of a star is really really really a lot, in real life - so it would take a lot of time to make a meaningful impact on a star.

To understand this, let's find a random Internet caclulation for Sol:

  • The Sun emits 3.8 x 10^33 ergs/sec or 3.8 x 10^26 watts of power, an amount of energy each second equal to 3.8 x 10^26 joules.

  • In one hour, or 3600 seconds, it produces 1.4 x 10^31 Joules of energy or 3.8 x 10^23 kilowatt-hours.

  • Since E = mc^2, in 1 hour it looses (1.37 x 10^37 ergs)/(9 x 10^20) = 1.5 x 10^16 grams or 15 billion metric tons of mass.

  • It's been doing this for about 4.5 billion years!


UPDATE#2

Found canon confirmation that Starkiller Base likely couldn't be moved in novelization:

Please note that the following Poe's statement comes AFTER they had seen the schematics of Starkiller base from survey team they sent, which means they would have seen/known if it has a hyperdrive:

“We’d likely get only one shot at it,” Poe put in. “What Admiral Ackbar said about keeping it secret would only work as long as its location remains unknown. Once the First Order realizes that we know where it is, they’d throw everything they’ve got into defending it with ships, mobile stations, and long-range detectors. We might never get close to it again.”

Note that he doesn't simply say "once First Order realizes that we know where it is, they will fore hyperdrive and move it".


UPDATE:

This is NOT canon, but my own speculation, but there is one very plausible explanation for why the film visuals make it appear as if a star's actual mass was "slurped into" the weapon in the movie, contrary to what the novelization seems to say:

This was how J.J. Abrams tried to visually depict "Dark Energy" being gathered. Because that is kind of hard to visualize for the filmgoers.

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    And yet, in the movie, they very clearly (and explicitly) consume an entire star. And they had to do that before they could fire. – Plutor Dec 22 '15 at 13:23
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    I'm not saying it makes sense. But the dialog and effects seemed pretty clear to me -- the star vanishing was the point at which the base was fully charged. – Plutor Dec 22 '15 at 13:45
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    i agree with @Plutor it appears that the star was completely consumed, as they had "until the light runs out" to absorb so much of the star that it no longer gives off light leads me to believe they ATE the whole star. then when the base blows up, it appears as a new star. some random nerd physicist calcs nerdist.com/… – Himarm Dec 22 '15 at 14:10
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    The movie does show the star being sucked in entirely. There's no sun left after in the movie. There's a new one after the base explode. – Jonathan Drapeau Dec 22 '15 at 14:16
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    Hi guys. Please note: this is not physics.se. The physics in star wars works however they tell us it works, idiotic or otherwise. – KutuluMike Dec 28 '15 at 13:43
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Both the Death Star I and II had hyperdrive capability. It wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that the Starkiller Base also has similar capability.

There has been a new official map released with locations for the new canon - http://newmediarockstars.com/2015/11/star-wars-maps-starkiller-base-ilum-theory/

Included on this map is a label for "Starkiller Base Origin Point" - indicating that it has since moved from that location.

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    But the Death Star I and II were constructed as space stations. It looked to me like the Starkiller base was built into an existing planet. – Kevin Dec 25 '15 at 0:05
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    @Kevin - burrowed would be a more apt technical description. Having said that, there was absolutely nothing in the Novelization to indicate hyperspace capability – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 25 '15 at 0:25
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    @ToddWilcox - even travelling within the same star system at sub-luminal speeds would take many days/weeks/months – HorusKol Jan 6 '16 at 22:04
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    @Kevin - yes, Starkiller base was built out of a planet... why couldn't they have added a hyperdrive when they built in the honking great star vacuum and blaster cannon thing? – HorusKol Jan 6 '16 at 22:06
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    @HarryJohnston - why unnecessary? How else would the Starkiller get to another star to consume as fuel for the superweapon? And the addition of a a hyperdrive after building such a weapon, instead of a massive fleet of ships, doesn't seem that much worse. – HorusKol Jan 7 '16 at 2:57
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We now have canon confirmation that the Starkiller Base is indeed mobile (using hyperspace engines to move its colossal mass) and totally drains its local sun of energy when it's primed.

The superweapon charges by draining a nearby sun of its power until it disappears. To fire again, the whole base moves to the next star system to devour a new star.

Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know, Updated and Expanded

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My easy answer- the Starkiller, it doesn't need to move. Snood or whomever, perceiving it as a terror weapon, intending to use it only a few times to cow the populace (sound familiar, G. M. Tarkin?), simply does not expect to move it. After destroying the senate, he could shelve it.

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    I'm not sure this holds water. So SKB fired once to destroy the Hosnian system and then drains another star (in its entirety) to fire on the Rebels. It's an apparent 1 star = 1 shot ratio. So... where did SKB get the star to fire shot #1 if it can't move? – Machavity Apr 6 '16 at 2:05
  • It can clearly move because it eats 2 stars in the movie. Moving from star to star in a reasonable timeframe requires a hyperdrive. Ergo it has a hyperdrive. – superluminary Apr 7 '16 at 14:36
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If we go by the evidence in the film, then they was no sign that Starkiller base could in fact move. Third hand evidence such as the map with Starkiller bases origin does imply at may be able to move but, this may have been added to try and explain the inconsistencies around the film.

Likewise we can't necessarily look to the novelization for the answers, as novelists will tweak film scripts to iron out any inconsistencies they find.

If we try to look too closely at the film we see another glaring discrepancy, in that Finn says, as the weapon is charged the sun is drained til it disappears.

Yet it was broad daylight when they made the first shot at the Republic Capital planets.

Screenwriters will often go for scenes that will captivate the audience, rather than thinking about the science behind it. So it's probably best not to delve too deeply, and just enjoy the experience.

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    The novels are vetted by the LucasFilm Story group, as are the films and other new materials. The word from on high is that all new Star Wars properties are considered to be equally valid. – Valorum Apr 30 '16 at 11:59
  • They may be vetted, but that does not stop novelists from adding their own amendments to deal with any inconsistencies a script might have. A perfect example for me is the novelization of the film Fantastic Voyage, where Isaac Asimov changed the ending to have the protaganist get the white cell to follow our heroes to the surface of the eye. In the film they ignored what would happen if the digested sub de-miniaturized. – Ravenstar68 May 1 '16 at 6:59
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    There is a substantial difference between a normal 'official novelisation' and the books that were produced to go along with the launch of Star Wars. The level of input from the studio was much more extensive. – Valorum May 1 '16 at 8:25
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With the usual arrogance, the First Order did not see a point to have a hyper drive on SKB. The Death Stars were going to have them because they had limited attack range, where the Death Star would have to travel to the Star System to Target an individual planet. The Starkiller base can fire all the way across the galaxy to a target. Plus, the SKB served it's purpose in annihilating the Republic government. Now it is really up to the resistance and a new Jedi Order to save the day against an army of Sith armed with lightsabers. Different from the original trilogy, but FWIW, I like the concept.

  • As far as I know, the Starkiller base did have drives, because otherwise it'd be rendered useless after it had consumed a sun to fuel the cannon. – Gallifreyan Jul 6 '17 at 19:10
  • Does it saids sun? that would be a mistake, the Sun is the star of the Earth. – Feuergeist Dec 8 '17 at 0:52

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