23

It's known that blaster bolts in Star Wars aren't instantaneous/speed-of-light - they are actually pretty slow (supposedly, slower than a high-velocity bullet).

Is there an official canon speed for how fast a blaster bolt travels?

I'm looking for one or both of:

  • Highest level canon calculations (presumably from G-canon, e.g. someone literally timing movie times and exact distances and calculating the speed; or word-of-god from Lucas or someone else involved in movie production).

  • and/or explicit mention of speed value in the non-movie canon (highest one available).

  • Possibly slower than a regular bullet, at least E-11 blaster rifle bolts. – Donmax May 8 '12 at 5:15
  • The Jedi Knight series shows that different guns have different speeds, as there are sniper-riffles that fire almost instantaneously, rapid-fire machine guns, slower riffles, etc. – Rogue Jedi Sep 6 '15 at 2:08
  • I think the best explanation, frankly, is that the bolts we’re seeing on screen are simply not an accurate visual representation of how fast the bolts are traveling in-universe. It’s a visual device for the viewer to see what’s happening: basically, the Rule of Cool at work. Originally, of course, they were supposed to be lasers, which shouldn’t even be visible at all! As some of the other answers show, if we try to work from the visual information on screen, we get ridiculous numbers like “slower than a car in South Dakota.” – Adamant Nov 4 '16 at 6:24
  • It’s the same deal as phasers in Star Trek. They explicitly move at the speed of light, yet measurements of on-screen movement often show them moving at a few feet per frame, which at 24 frames per second could be, say, 72 feet per second, or about 49 miles per hour (80 kph)! We can see the phasers on-screen because it’s cool; seeing someone point a weapon one frame and someone fall over the next is not. The only reason films can’t get away with this with guns is because people are too familiar with them: otherwise they’d definitely do it. – Adamant Nov 4 '16 at 6:28
11

Pretty much the only sort of technical commentaries of things like this (that I know of) come from here. Most of the analysis comes from frame-by-frame analysis of the movies, along with extrapolations from real world physics.

His take on it is this:

There is no sure answer in terms of real life science; so far we can only place constraints on the nature of the beam by making careful observations about the filmed behaviour. The shots create light which is emitted sideways, otherwise the bolts would not be seen. The visible bolts appear to travel at various velocities, which usually appear to be slower than the speed of light. However there is an invisible component of the beam which often propagates far ahead of the visible bolt. The invisible forerunner is probably an aspect of the fundamental beam itself, and the luminosity of the bolt is a side-effect. The forerunner beam is known to damage targets before the visible bolts arrive, and this component of the shot may actually propagate at lightspeed.

  • 1
    "which usually appear to be slower than the speed of light". Only usually? If you saw it then it was slower than the speed of light. If the "forerunner" traveled at light speed and did damage then all of those times a Jedi or Sith deflected a blaster bolt they would've already been shot. Makes no sense. – Hack-R Jul 31 '16 at 3:43
  • "The forerunner beam is known to damage targets before the visible bolts arrive, and this component of the shot may actually propagate at lightspeed." Or "Sometimes the drawn in after affects weren't properly timed with an actor recoiling from having been 'shot'" – Shufflepants Mar 14 '18 at 14:26
5

The blaster bolt is not made out of pure light. It contains plasma, which has mass. If it would travel at light speed, it would require infinite energy to accelerate (a blaster does not have a hyperdrive), according to general relativity.

The only reliable answer you can get is by looking at the canon. By calculating distance with the time taken for the blaster shot to travel, most calculations have arrived at around 150m/sec.

4

Here is a link with the speed analysis: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/05/star-wars-blaster-speed/

Relevant excerpt follows:

First, let me comment on the ground base’s blaster shots. The average for these things is just 34.9 m/s (78 mph). This is in the ballpark of a baseball pitch. Compare this to the speed of a Nerf gun bullet at about 10 m/s.

3

Mythbusters' Adam Savage recently did some calculations on this, determining that laser bolts travel an average speed of 130-135mph across the six movies.

To do this, he measured the speed the bolts travel across known/calculable distances on screen, such as doors.

  • I just finished watching that episode and it should be noted that Savage averaged the speed of every blaster in Star Wars, while to be truely accurate he should have averaged each different kind of blaster separately. – Rogue Jedi Sep 6 '15 at 1:54

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