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In the season one finale "Kobol's Last Gleaming", Starbuck jumps to Caprica to retrieve the Arrow of Apollo. In season two episode "The Farm", Roslin's faction jumps to Kobol and (separately) Starbuck leaves Caprica. In the episode "Home", Starbuck somehow manages to rendez-vous with Roslin's faction in orbit of Kobol. Here Starbuck is piloting a Cylon Heavy Raider.

Now, how does a single Cylon ship manage to find its way back to Colonial ships? First of all, the Colonials were specifically trying not to be found by the Cylons, and were travelling around hiding, so it's unlikely Starbuck could just "find" the Fleet again unless they were at the exact location she left them at. However, even if Starbuck did know how to get back to the Fleet, how did she know how to jump to Kobol? The separation of Roslin's faction and their journey to Kobol happened after Starbuck had already left the fleet, so she had no way of knowing that this had happened. In the season one episode, Roslin clearly told Starbuck to "bring me" the arrow, not to bring it to Kobol.

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I think the answer is easier: Starbuck knew where Kobol was.

Recall that the discovery of Kobol was the major event that set off the whole chain in the first place, including Roslin/Starbuck's decision to return to Caprica to retrieve the arrow. And we know that in Scattered, the fleet left the open space where Starbuck left from, so Starbuck could have returned to that spot, found the fleet gone, then went to the next logical place: Kobol.

  • It's worth mentioning that it's stated in-universe that the Cylons have much better FTL than the colonials. Starbuck also wasn't alone, she had one of the 8's (Athena?) with her, as well as an undamaged heavy raider that the 8 could, presumably, "talk" to and persuade to take them to any known coordinates. – Joe L. Apr 15 '15 at 3:26
  • This ignores the fleet protocol they mention in a few episodes, where various Raptors are sent to patrol rendezvous points. The idea behind that is OPSEC and SCI, basically anyone who might be captured gets otherwise useless coordinates, and once they return and debrief on station, then they can rejoin the fleet proper. – vulpineblazeyt Jun 10 '16 at 20:42
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The easiest answer: The plot dictated it.

A more difficult answer: It can be assumed that in the BSG known universe there are a finite number of human habitable worlds. Given their civilization's FTL (faster than light travel) capabilities and given the decades or even centuries it was in use, it can be presumed that the Colonies were familiar with all of the inhabitable worlds within a reasonable (for space travel) distance from the their core worlds. Clearly, Kobol was one of these worlds, as it was shown that humans had been to planet some time in the past.

While it isn't shown, Starbuck could have easily traveled to more than one such habitable world, not found the fleet and then FTL "jumped" to the next one until she found the fleet. Or she could have simply limited her jump decisions to the worlds where it was most likely that the fleet would be, with Kobol being among the more likely. The series doesn't relate Starbuck's actions after she left Caprica; it simply shows her locating the fleet after she did.

  • Thanks for your answer, however for the majority of the series the fleet was not in orbit of any habitable world, they were just in open space somewhere. – Kidburla Mar 20 '14 at 16:17
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    They were in open space because the narrative of the program dictates that instead of finding a habitable planet and settling down that the fleet wanders around until the series ends. It can be presumed that for reasons of taking on supplies and making repairs that the fleet would have had to stop in orbit of at least several planets along the way and reviewing the series shows that to be the case. – Mistah Mix Mar 20 '14 at 18:32
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    Re "it can be presumed that the Colonies were familiar with all of the inhabitable worlds within a reasonable (for space travel) distance from the their core worlds", there was something about "no one's ever jumped beyond the red line" in the miniseries so I don't think The Colonies were really that big on exploration nor were they terribly knowledgeable about anything outside their local system. – mu is too short Apr 6 '14 at 23:58

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