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?
  • 7
    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. Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 17:02
  • 12
    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. Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 17:33
  • 13
    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
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 18:19
  • 9
    @GorchestopherH - .5 past light speed refers to the class (it has a class 0.5 hyperdrive, with class 0 being infinte speed)
    – The Fallen
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 20:22
  • 9
    Since they are speaking in English, parsec means what we think it means. The translation must be assumed accurate, or for all we know they were discussing baking a cake in their language.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 0:37

14 Answers 14


It was an error in the screen play that was retconed later. Wookieepedia's Kessel Run article says 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:

Han: 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 had to fix that assertion in the extended universes.

  • 26
    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
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 20:25
  • 2
    @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
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 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
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 20:33
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    @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
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 20:37
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    @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
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 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.

  • 2
    This is also supported by one of the novels involving Jaina Solo -- she beat's Han record on the Kessel Run by taking a shorter and more dangerous path. I think an asteroid field was involved. Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 16:51
  • @MatthewRead - Wasn't that Mara Jade? Lost her ship trying to best Han? (It's been a long time since I read the books).
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 16:32

It was originally supposed to show that he is just a cocksure, stupid braggart:

in the original script:

                     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.

In other words, he is telling this obviously untrue information just to make himself look better. Later on, it was retconned into the whole story about Kessel run being a path between singularities.

So back to original questions:

  • Han Solo didn't know what parsec is
  • Yes, he is just trying to impress
  • It was intentional
  • 3
    To add to this correct answer: The later change was part of a larger retcon and "special edition" edit to convert Han Solo from an unprincipled smuggler that does a heel-face-turn into just a reluctant hero from the start.
    – Therac
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 21:30
  • Consider context please: Han probably knew what a parsec is but he's been busy gettin his drink on in the Cantina and then some deseparate scrubs crawl out of the desert - he has no clue they are a couple Jedi badasses - and he's just "puttin on airs" as we used to say: spouting some BS to sell it. He needs big money for his debt/bounty to Jabba, so the parsecs BS is an incentive to close the deal. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 21:37

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.


Simple - they made a silly, ignorant mistake, and then, when that ignorance was pointed out, covered it up with scientific theory and technobabble. They covered the kessel run in twelve parsecs - that sentence doesn't refer to the kessel run, or the parsecs - it refers to the massive coverup that the novels did on a massive goof-up.

Sometimes, if you've made a mistake in ignorance, admitting that ignorance honestly, and then correcting it is the most honorable thing one can do. The Jedi thing, if you like. I see that good ol Lucas isn't a Jedi. But does it have to be made obvious?

Well, at least he isn't Sith. A sith would be killing everyone who ever knew or perceived the error, instead of merely covering it up :)

  • 1
    It is not a mistake in ignorance. Try driving from Clevland to Detroit. Google maps says 180 miles. If you had a hovercraft, you could make the trip in less distance by going over water in a straight line.
    – PmanAce
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 17:31

So many extravagant explanations (including by Lucasfilm themselves) aren't really necessary. While I have no doubt that it was originally just an oversight/misinterpretation of what a parsec really is, it can simply be explained by a misinterpretation of another kind... the dialogue. Han seems shocked that Ben has never heard of the Falcon (as though it is famous for something). Ben asks 'should I have?' as if to say 'what's it so famous for?' Han then explains the reason why it's famous. It's known as the only ship that has done the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. This is not a claim to the ship's speed, but the reason why Ben should have heard of it. He then goes to claim that it's fast enough based on outrunning Imperial starships.

  • Hmm. I've never considered it from that view point.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 23:04
  • Do you have any base for this? Anything from any kind of canon, or an interview of someone?
    – CHEESE
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 23:05

Kessel Run in 12 parsecs is NOT a mistake. Solo: A Star Wars Story movie has confirmed it.

In the movie,

while escaping planet Kessel, Han piloted the Millennium Falcon along a dangerous 12 parsecs route through an uncharted maelstrom to elude an Imperial blockade. After encountering Imperial blockade, Lando told Han to drop unstable Coaxium containers because they could no longer make the run in 20 parsecs. Well, Han made the run in 12 parsecs by finding another route through the maelstrom.

  • 18
    I would rather say "NOT a mistake ANYMORE". Pretty sure Lucas didn't anticipate the screenplay of Solo…
    – Fatalize
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 9:05
  • 3
    And somehow it's gotten even more stupid that way
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 16:03
  • 5
    How is it more stupid? It's not brilliant, but at least tries to explain a plot hole / mistake...you know, like Rogue One did with the Death Star's weak spot.
    – tilley31
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 16:10
  • 12-ish. If you round down; scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/206689/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 7:47

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.


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.

  • Precisely. It is farfetched, by maybe not in a world of space travel. It basically means "my ship can go close enough to a black hole to shorten the length of the Kessel Run to 12 parsecs, and still escape, so it's pretty fast" Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 15:45


It does appear that he his referring to a time frame as people seem to concur, but what if he wasn't.

However what about if light speed cant be done in straight lines because of astronomical issues, such as so called black holes, asteroid fields or other space type threats such as imperial blockades even. Don't forget he was a smuggler / indeed a reference to him as even a pirate.

Therefore making the distance in 12 parsecs, an astronomical unit of distance, may still be argued as feat to be bragged about "the kessel run" in less distance than most other's.


I think Han indicates that his ship has better technological capabilities to shorten distance traveled.

From: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Kessel_Run

In the commentary for Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope DVD, George Lucas mentions that the parsecs are due to the Millennium Falcon's advanced navigational computer rather than its engines, so the navicomputer would calculate much faster routes than other ships could.


I think the real question isn't "Did Han know what a parsec was?" but rather, "did George Lucas know what a parsec was?" And I think it's fairly clear that the answer is No, he didn't. Neither did anyone who read the script during production. Neither did the majority of his audience, so it didn't really matter. Likely, YOU didn't know this was an error the first time (or even the first several times) that you heard it.

This was the very first of these movies, and Lucas was making his first foray into writing about space. He latched on to catchy terms and made use of them, and in this case he did so incorrectly. He was throwing the term out to his audience the same way that it is now implied that Han was throwing it out to who he thought were two dusty farmers. It worked perfectly well until people started pointing out that a parsec is a unit of distance while Han acts like he's talking about time. And then, rather than admit to the mistake, Lucas and the writers of the novels decided to make it work for the correct definition. Because this is all fiction, and fictional worlds will continue to evolve, both forwards and backwards, as long as their creators continue to explore them.

So, to put it simply, it seems like it was originally a screenplay error that then became accepted in the lore, which adapted so that a line that was intended to be a boast anyways became a statement of fact.


It's not a mistake. He made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs of distance rather than taking a longer route. He and the falcon are the only ones to have taken than shorter more dangerous corner cutting course.


"kesselrun" is a standard unit of time used to rate starships. The question is how far you can travel in one "kesselrun". The MF going a whole 12 parsecs in one kesselrun is ridiculously fast, no other ship ever getting farther than 10.63 parsecs. :-)

  • 3
    While this answer is wrong, that is not justification to delete it.
    – Tritium21
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 2:17
  • 6
    It actually is a less stupid retcon than the two the canon is actually trying to use - distance = time and the infinite class measurement of stardrives. Plus One!
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 0:40

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