One of the most important parts of world building in science-fiction and fantasy is establishing a sense of time and history for the story’s setting. The original Star Trek was set in the 23rd century. Tolkien’s Middle Earth history spanned across three Ages, thousands of years in length each. Buck Rogers In The 25th Century was set in… Well, you get the idea.
Surprisingly, though, Star Wars is one of the only franchises that has no real in-world dating or calendar system that has been shown. So when someone says something happened “a while ago,” or if we wanted to know when Luke Skywalker’s actual birthday was, there isn’t a way for the characters to express it. And on a certain level, that does work to keep the fairy tale-esque feeling initiated by the franchise’s classic opening of “A long time ago, in a galaxy far away…”
That doesn’t mean to say that it is complete chaos for fans trying to figure out where stories fall on the overall Star Wars timeline. In order to keep track of the chronology of the history of that galaxy far away, an out of universe dating system was established by Lucasfilm. It is a simple system that dates events from how long before or after the destruction of the first Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, ergo Before Battle Of Yavin (BBY) or After the Battle of Yavin (ABY). (For the sake of simplicity, a year is considered the same length in the Star Wars galaxy as it is here on Earth – 365 days.)
So, for example, if you are told that the first season of The Mandalorian takes place five years after the events of Return Of The Jedi and you know that that movie takes place approximately four years after the Battle of Yavin, you know that The Mandalorian takes place at 9 ABY. Conversely, since Luke and Leia were 19 at the time of the Battle of Yavin, we know that Revenge Of The Sith, where we see them born, is set 19 BBY.
The system has been used in by Lucasfilm in numerous behind the scenes books and visual guides, as well as in the frontspiece of Star Wars novels to let readers know where that particular story may fall in the chronology.
Fandom has also adapted the dating system, where it can be seen in use in paces like Wookiepedia.
It should also be noted that a date can either have the number before or after the BBY/ABY designator.
The premier episode of the new Star Wars Disney+ show Andor opens with an onscreen text to let us know where in the galaxy. But for the first time in franchise history, we are told specifically when we are at as well, specifically five years before the Battle of Yavin. Since Star Wars: Rogue One, which first introduced audience’s to Luna as Andor, is set in the few weeks leading up to the events of the original Star Wars, this lets us know that we are five years before that time. And given that we have been told that the show’s second season of 12 episodes will take place over a stretch of four years, it seems like they will continue to use the onscreen notations for when the narrative time jumps ahead.
The Star Wars Timeline
300 – 82 BBY – High Republic Era
32 BBY – The Phantom Menace
22 BBY – Attack of the Clones
22 – 19 BBY – Clone Wars animated series
19 BBY – Revenge of the Sith
18 BBY – The Bad Batch animated series
10 BBY – Solo
9 BBY – Kenobi
5 BBY – Andor season 1
4 BBY – 0 BBY – Rebels animated series
0 BBY – Rogue One, Star Wars: A New Hope
3 ABY – The Empire Strikes Back
4 ABY – Return of the Jedi
9 ABY – The Mandalorian Seasons 1,2, The Book of Boba Fett
10 ABY – The Mandalorian Season 3
34 ABY – The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi
35 ABY – The Rise Of Skywalker