Science has revealed more about when, exactly, the Star Wars movies take place. Every non-spinoff Star Wars film opens the same iconic text – “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” It’s a phrase that’s nearly synonymous with the franchise and almost immediately gives that sense of history and wonder to it. The time period and setting of Star Wars is a beautiful and economical mystery, but some fans want hard answers.
Patrick Johnson’s book, “The Physics of Star Wars: The Science Behind a Galaxy Far, Far Away”, attempts to apply real-world science to a universe with literal magical space monks. The chosen passage takes a look at the known planets, elements and lifeforms of the Star Wars universe, as well as knowledge about the creation of our own universe and tries to meld the two together into one cohesive whole. While it might sound like a (nerdy) fool’s errand, Johnson comes up with not one, but several, plausible explanations.
As reported by Wired, Johnson posits that based on the development of life, culture and approximate age of the planets in the universe, Star Wars takes place about roughly 9 billion years after the big bang that created the universe as it is now known. If true, this leaves at least 4.7 billion years between the stories of Star Wars and the present day world. In other words it is “a long time ago.”
The most interesting evidence Johnson gives to this theory is the planet of Mustafar; the site of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s climatic duel in Revenge of the Sith and later home to Darth Vader’s castle. Mustafar is a planet overflowing with lava and containing a nearly ridiculous amount of volcanoes but that climate isn’t all that different to what Earth was like in its early stages. Similarly, Hoth, the famous snowy planet from Empire Strikes Back, could be another Earth-like entity experiencing an ice age. Star Wars‘ motif of having “themed planets” is really nothing more than Earth-esque planets being in different stages of development.
Star Wars taking place 9 billion years after the big bang, but 4.7 billion years before the modern era, is just one theory. Johnson also theorizes that the opening to every Star Wars crawl is a lie and that the universe actually takes place in an alternate reality. This explains why the elements and atoms, the basic building blocks of the universe, are so radically different for Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan and everyone else.
The most interesting theory though is that Star Wars could take place before the big bang itself. While it’s not exactly a widely accepted theory, Johnson does state there are some who believe that life existed in the universe before the big bang. The big bang was less the creation of life but more of a reset button as the universe grew incredibly dense and collapsed on itself… which sets up an ultimate ending for the Star Wars universe that’s more dark and depressing than anything The Last Jedi or Episode IX (and beyond) can dream up.
It’s next to impossible to prove any of these theories. Or at least, it’s impossible until Disney runs out of ideas for standalone films and decides to go full science-fiction and jump a Jedi into the “real world” through time travel. Still, it’s fun to imagine that there’s more to the famous Star Wars opening text than just some clever language.
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