Contrails On the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member


In the trailer for the latest Star Wars movie, the Millennium Flacon is shown leaving aerodynamic contrails as it flies quite close to the ground (i.e., in an atmosphere, not in space).

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly it's debatable if the contrails are physically accurate. The Falcon is not a very aerodynamic vehicle, there's no "wing" as such to create lift, and hence not real wake vortex. The air behind the Falcon would just be very turbulent, and there seems no reason why it would leave contrails in the first place. Although, since it's of imaginary technology, perhaps there is some kind of force field that shapes the air around it.

Obviously here the reason why contrails were added was not so much to attempt to by physically accurate, but to create an impression of speed. We are most familiar with these types of contrails coming off the wing tips of very fast fighter jets, such as this one in Wales:


Or perhaps they were using another spaceship for reference.


Note again thought, both the jet and the Space Shuttle are leaving aerodynamic contrails because they have wings - actual aerodynamic surfaces that create sheets of low pressure that roll up into the wingtip vortices that create the even lower pressure that causes the condensation. The Falcon really isn't going to do this.

The second reason why this is interesting is that there's a small segment of the (already quite fringe) "chemtrail" community who think that the powers-that-be are attempting to "normalize" contrails by adding them into films. Since this trailer only just came out, there's very little reaction so far. But it seems inevitable that the some people are going to bring it up as evidence of something.
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
if you watch the scenes closely I think its just for the same reason they add contrails to planes on airline posters. its just to fake the illusion of speed. against a plain blue sky like that if you remove the 'contrails' its just a blob model not moving against the blue.

*what happened to R2D2!
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
Although, since it's of imaginary technology, perhaps there is some kind of force field that shapes the air around it.
This is the "answer" that I'm going to go with....the "contrails" are merely a visible consequence of the propulsion system (in an atmosphere)...

(OT: Although JJ Abrams futzed with "Star Trek", destroying decades of canon, and obliterating logic, there is no doubt he draws audiences
with his pablum. Still, since "Star Wars" really has no 'canon' in a scientific sense, as it is character-driven mostly, should certainly be a huge
success under his guidance as director.

"More lens flares, please. Thank you, JJ.")
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
This is the "answer" that I'm going to go with....the "contrails" are merely a visible consequence of the propulsion system (in an atmosphere)...

(OT: Although JJ Abrams futzed with "Star Trek", destroying decades of canon, and obliterating logic, there is no doubt he draws audiences
with his pablum. Still, since "Star Wars" really has no 'canon' in a scientific sense, as it is character-driven mostly, should certainly be a huge
success under his guidance as director.
Engine trails are a common thing in scifi. They also help to give a sense of 3d movement in an environment where relative distance and speed are hard to see.

Edit: To add to the crazy future tech explanation, rather than propulsion, control: while nothing like this has been suggested in Star Wars that I know, in Star Trek some ships like Voyager and Defiant can use energy fields to create aerodynamic contours around their ship to allow atmospheric flight in vessels that clearly have the aerodynamics of a brick. So even though the Falcon is not at all aerodynamic, it could have projected control and lift fields around it.

(OT: Aside from the visual style, most of the blame for the JJ-Trek movies lies with Roberto Orci, who's done roughly the same thing to Transformers and Spider-man. Abrams was also fairly public about not caring much for Star Trek and much preferring Star Wars. All in all he'll probably do better this time around, particularly since he wasn't allowed to bring Orci along with him, instead we're getting a writer who worked on Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Many Star Wars fans consider those two the best and worst of the original series, but are torn on which is which. I'm a Return guy myself)
 
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