A Handful of Light-Years Further

Because I apparently have too much time on my hands and really ought to find myself something more constructive to do than this, in a few days, my Elite Dangerous alter-ego, Commander Ceitidh Drowe (whose piccy adorns my Facebook profile in justifiable lieu of my own unholy fizzog), is going to be embarking on AN EXPOTITION.

The Distant Worlds 2 expedition, with several thousand Elite Dangerous players signed up, departs the Bubble — the small blob of Human-inhabited space — striking out for Beagle Point, a star system on the very far side of the Galaxy, 65,279 light-years from Sol, and a handful of light-years further from Ceit’s own home system of Vequess, in the Empire of Achenar. Those who survive will then come back. The whole round trip will take around eight months. Yes, that’s eight months of real-world time — although that’s in fits and starts, reasonable play time permitting, and won’t require me to be wired to a drip at my computer and resign my job.

This ‘yere is one possible route a person might take to get from Here to There — not so much to show you the route we’ll be taking, which has yet to be disclosed, but to give you an idea of the length of the journey:

This image shows the galaxy from above the plane of the galactic disc, and has a route marked from Sol around three quarters of the way out on one side, to Beagle Point right on the edge on the other.
It looks as though the explorer following the route in this image diverted to go explore the Formidine Rift, where ALIENS have been reported, and then went round the edge. Distant Worlds 2 is going roughly through the middle.

You might like to bear in mind that my ship — Ceit’s ship? I confuse myself — is capable of jumping around 45 light-years at a time, hopping from star to star and skimming the corona of Main Sequence bodies in order to refuel for the next jump.

It gets awfully hot. And if you find yourself coming out of witch-space into a neutron star or a black hole, it can get very bendy, too. Spaghettifically so in the latter’s case.

Once you arrive, you find that Beagle Point is pretty much a barren rock, with little to recommend it as a holiday spot.

A page of information about Beagle Point. It essentially amounts to the system being the furthest known from Sol, and there's a 'base camp' positioned on the terminator between night and day on the second world out from the star.

This raises the question of why several thousand players would decide to go there. Well, I dunno. I missed the first Distant Worlds and it seems like the kind of thing you should really be able to say you’d done. It’s a shame I can’t find the same motivation to do any of the things you can do in real life that you can say you’ve done, like climb a mountain.

Or ford a burn, for that matter.

Well, knowing me as I do — and I know me quite well by now, I think — I probably won’t stick at it a week, to be honest, and I’m not exactly flying a well-kitted-out ship. Other participants have spent weeks, if not months, tinkering with their vessels, adjusting the loadout, tuning the performance to squeeze the last possible light-second out of their frame-shift drives. At least one pilot, at the time of the last survey, was reporting a jump range of 84 light-years. Although there are dozens of ships that can’t make 20, so I’m somewhere in the middle. The journey will be broken up into several legs, with each waypoint only being announced when the bulk of the fleet has arrived at the last one.

A distribution graph of declared jump ranges for ships participating in DW2.

Still, though, my dedicated Asp Explorer, the Last Scattering, is as rigged out as I can be bothered to make it. My hopes of survival aren’t terribly high. But optimism alone will carry me a light-year or two, I’ve no doubt; and in the meantime I thought some of my more geographically local friends might be interested to see what space station I’m going to be settled at until departure day. This isn’t one I’ve named. And it isn’t one I’ve chosen — it’s just the nearest to the actual departure point, which is down on the planet this station orbits.

The name’s shown in the lower centre of the screen. Has a familiar ring to it somehow.

An orbital platform called 'Bakewell Point'.

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