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From previous answers here, and "general knowledge" (in other words, having seen every episode of all three Stargate shows, but not necessarily remembering all of them), a 7 symbol gate address is coordinates for a gate, and an 8 symbol gate address includes distance, then gate coordinates.

When they dial the stargate on the Destiny, they have no idea where the gate they're dialing is or what kind of place it is in. I don't remember a clear specification of what the 9th symbol was for. However, at the time, they had no way of knowing the gate was on the Destiny and the Destiny had been travelling for millennia. Even if gates were dialing each other every few thousand years, there would be no way of knowing Destiny's coordinates, since it was moving so rapidly.

The other issue is that Destiny didn't have the power to open a wormhole back to the Milky Way to update other gates with its coordinates.

In other words, there's no way the Milky Way gates could know, at that time, the coordinates of the Destiny.

How were they able to dial it without knowing the distance or coordinates or anything about where the gate was?

  • An 8th chevron seemed to act as an area code, so I always took the 9th chevron to indicate hardcoded gates - but that doesn't really explain why any arbitrary Stargate could dial it... – Izkata Feb 18 '12 at 3:56
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    @Izkata I assumed when building the gate network, they hardcoded the Destiny address into each gate. – user1027 Feb 18 '12 at 4:57
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I found the answer in, of all places, the Stargate Wiki. The problem, as with most wikis, is that the articles are so unearthly long that you can get lost in one article or you can skim it and still miss details. On the entry for Stargate (D'oh! Forgot to look for the obvious article!), it states:

For a standard seven-chevron address, the first six glyphs represent points in space, forming three-dimensional coordinates. The seventh represents the point of origin, a glyph which is unique to each gate. For Stargates to access a destination outside of their galaxy, eight chevrons are used; the first six target a destination as normal, while a seventh glyph prior to the point of origin adds a distance calculation to the address, targeting a gate outside the galaxy as opposed to a local one. A nine-chevron address is more of a code than a location, and this allows connection to specific Stargates - regardless of their location. So far, the only two known nine-chevron address connect to the Ancient ship Destiny, and from Destiny to Earth, but it is possible that more of these addresses exist.

A 7 symbol dialout is normal, since that's 6 coordinates and the point of origin symbol. The 8 symbol dialout includes a space/distance calculation. The one that's really different is the nine symbol dialout, which is, as @HNL suggested here, like a MAC address. Each stargate has a unique one.

The 9 symbol dialout addressed the specific gate on the Destiny, no matter where it was. (And this also supports @PearsonArtPhoto's answer here that stargates do have to somehow communicate through subspace before the wormhole is formed -- otherwise, how would an originating gate know where the destination gate was if the address was given as the gate ID?)

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    Nice glitch in the wiki: "point of origin, a glyph which is unique to each gate" ... that can't be correct because there are more gates than glyphs on any gate I've seen so far. I think the chevron/3D mapping was a nice idea in the movie to introduce Daniel but in reality, it's stupid, not only because of star shift but because it wastes too many symbols for too few bits of data. – Aaron Digulla Feb 20 '12 at 14:29
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    @AaronDigulla: If you look at the wiki article on point of origin, they include pictures of the different point of origin glyphs. That one glyph itself changes from stargate to stargate, so each gate can have its own glyph. – Tango Feb 20 '12 at 15:23
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    answering your own question is encouraged – wax eagle Jun 28 '12 at 17:37
  • @AaronDigulla They account for the star shift. The DHD calculates for it and Sam and others had to run an algorithm or something like that to get to other gate besides Abydos. Also, each DHD doesn't have to be identical. Stargates have a range and only connect to a specific number of other gates, especially ancient gates like the ones used in Universe. – fredsbend Jul 6 '13 at 0:24
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    But Earth's had its original Stargate destroyed, right? So did the Ancients program its code to correspond to the planet Earth itself or something, or did some ascended Ancients come and rewire the Stargate network for them? – SimonT Dec 25 '13 at 19:44
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They did know the address to Destiny because it was in Atlantis' Dialing Database. Also, from what i got from the first episode of SGU, The address to destiny is more like a id number that a street address, Because when they dialed destiny with Icarus Base's Point of origin, they couldn't make a connection, but when they used the point of origin from Earth's stargate, they were able to connect.

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    Although you're not wrong, how does this answer differ from the existing (accepted and upvoted) answer above? – Valorum May 20 '16 at 0:04
  • @Aaron Sprouse: Welcome to the Stack Exchange. Improve your answer by adding a link to your source. – sfhq_sf May 20 '16 at 1:04
  • True, I didn't really read the other comments – Aaron Sprouse May 20 '16 at 1:09
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How could they dial Destiny without knowing where it was?

They couldn't without a little help. Let me explain.

I can't recall the exact source at the moment but there is an SGU prequel book or comic that has details on how they found Destiny's address and the power required to dial it. That's the part that always bothered me, how they could even guess how much power to supply if they didn't at least know the distance (which dictates power requirements.)

For this reason we can deduce one of two things; either Destiny was holding approximate position for a millions of years old power (aka distance) requirement to remain valid or the Ascended Ancients made sure they "found" the info.

We can't say which though either works and the two are not mutually exclusive.

*P.S. To anyone who thinks the Ascended don't get involved, it's true that they avoid it and they do take action to hold thier own accountable when "interference" goes wrong but it's not their highest law to avoid interfering, instead it's clearly to never be worshipped as God's. Which makes it easy to see why they'd try to manipulate events clandestinely like Morgan Lafay pretending to be a hologram on Atlantis.

It's possible and maybe even likely that the MWG's Ascended beings have been running a long game so far culminating in the destruction of their greatest enemy the Ori. If so that may only have ever been preparation to shore up their position before moving against the Planet Builders (by introducing the Tauri, their favorite decoys, to them.)

If the Ascended think they're Very Bad News I'm willing to give their opinion the benefit of the doubt.

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