Want to learn more about lightspeed travel in the galaxy far, far away? Punch it!
Star Wars Inside Intel is a StarWars.com feature where Lucasfilm Story Group member Emily Shkoukani, whose job is to know as much about a galaxy far, far away as possible, explores obscure facts about Star Wars lore and continuity. In this installment, Emily explains how hyperspace functions…
Hyperspace is one of the fantastical parts of Star Wars that never fails to captivate both audiences and characters in the story. The endless tunnel of swirling blues is absolutely mesmerizing. But what exactly is hyperspace? With Star Wars constantly exploring the mysteries of hyperspace, most recently in Star Wars: The High Republic, it seemed only right to explain the function of it.
The most rudimentary definition of hyperspace is a dimension of space used to travel across (typically) long distances. Essentially, the Star Wars galaxy exists in “realspace” (just as the Milky Way does), but at some point, residents of the galaxy discovered a dimension that broke past any speed barriers. This allowed them to travel far and fast, making space travel more accessible and traversable. To access hyperspace a ship needs to reach (and inevitably surpass) "lightspeed." Reaching these speeds allows ships to basically break through the barrier from realspace into hyperspace. In order to reach these speeds, a ship requires a hyperdrive -- a propulsion system that would pitch the ship to lightspeed in order to “jump” to hyperspace. (Although ships often travel at far faster velocities than lightspeed once in hyperspace, something otherwise impossible to do.)
Other technology needed to traverse hyperspace include hypermatter and some means of navigation. Hypermatter is used to fuel a hyperdrive in order for it to reach lightspeed and jump to hyperspace. The most common type of hypermatter is coaxium. The navigational systems required could vary but at its core, a ship needs the coordinates of its destination in order to jump to hyperspace. Jumping without coordinates is a risk; it could lead you to smashing into something at incredible speed, or being dropped out of hyperspace with a busted hyperdrive, and stranded to wander the empty void for ages. (Remember Han’s warning in Star Wars: A New Hope?)
During the High Republic era, the Nihil used what they called “Paths” to traverse the galaxy, which were seemingly impossible hyperspace routes. Mari San Tekka, a scion of the San Tekka family known for charting many hyperspace routes in this era, was responsible for discovering these Paths. Her innate navigational skills allowed her to see these Paths when no one else could. The Nihil exploited Mari and her abilities, using her Paths to wreak havoc across the Outer Rim including causing the Great Disaster.
While The High Republic has featured hyperspace prospecting, it’s not exactly the origin of hyperspace discovery. When hyperspace was discovered has yet to be defined, but how it was discovered has been explored. Most creatures and sentient beings are incapable of surviving in the vacuum of space (let alone hyperspace) without the aid of an exosuit or breathing apparatus. However, there are outliers. Purrgil are massive whale-like creatures that live in the vacuum of deep space. But what makes them especially unique is their natural ability to access hyperspace, as seen in Star Wars Rebels. Purrgil introduced sentients of the galaxy to hyperspace and inspired them to create hyperdrives in order to travel to the alternate dimension that these amazing creatures could inexplicably reach.
In Star Wars Rebels when Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger first discovers the majestic purrgil, he connects with one and sees the swirl of hyperspace in its eye. What Ezra is seeing in this moment, and what ships see as they travel through the iconic spiral of blues in hyperspace, is called a simu-tunnel. A simu-tunnel is what hyperspace look like when you're safely contained in a hyperdrive-produced pocket of realspace while traveling through hyperspace. Purrgil create them naturally.
All that’s left to say is punch it.
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