Starburst is a method of propulsion utilized by Leviathans to cover great distances quickly. It is one of two "modes" utilized by a Leviathan's propulsion systems. In normal operation, or hetch drive, the Leviathan moves as a conventional ship does. Hetch is also a measurement of speed. The second mode of operation for a Leviathan is Starburst. Starburst opens up a gateway through space-time that allows the Leviathan to exist in and travel through one dimensional space, thus drastically increasing the speed a Leviathan can achieve without requiring increased amounts of energy output beyond what is needed to maintain Starburst.
Starburst is able to increase the rate at which vast distances are covered by moving the Leviathan into one dimensional space-time. This changes the Leviathan's linear three-dimensional speed into an exponential one dimensional speed where by the distance covered during Starburst is a function of the time spent in Starburst. Starburst is extremely inefficient for short movements under a light cycle (the distance a beam of light travels in one cycle). Beyond a light cycle, the distance covered by Starburst increases rapidly. Unfortunately, the more time that is spent in Starburst, the more energy that is used. A Leviathan cannot generate energy fast enough to maintain Starburst, so energy is stored as low-energy (visible light) photons in the amnexus system for use during Starburst. Also, the direction in which a Leviathan travels depends on its entry vector into one dimensional space-time, but the information that makes up the entry vector is converted into a scalar value in one dimensional space-time, thus making the exit vector a completely random value. Because of this random exit vector, reverse navigation is not as simple as turning the ship around and Starbursting again. The ships pilot must replot an entirely new vector based on their current and previous navigational positions (the latter of which can often be pure speculation and intuition on the pilot's part). Lastly, the very high speeds which Starburst achieves makes it impossible to track a Leviathan through Starburst, due to Heisenberg Uncertainty. A pursuing ship only has the option of searching along the Leviathans last known vector, but without a precise knowledge of this vector, the track could be millions of metras off the Leviathan's true trajectory. This makes Starburst an effective and non-destructive defense mechanism.
Dangers Associated with Starburst
Starburst is relatively safe in that it presents no physical danger to biological life forms. However, because of space-time distortions, most lower order life forms experience disorientation ranging from mild vertigo to severe sensory overload. These sensations can be exacerbated should a starburst session become extended (see 4.22 "Bad Timing"). The dimensional transition is also a critical period. If power to the Starburst systems are lost before full transition is complete, or if Starburst systems are improperly shut down, the Leviathan may not completely exit into four dimensional space-time, remaining partially trapped in a dimensional schism. Starburst is also extremely volatile in areas where space-time is not isotropic. This includes wormholes, the event horizons of singularities, and space-time rifts. Lastly, the greatest danger in Starburst occurs when a Leviathan initiates Starburst in confined area, or in close proximity to other large objects. Ships within a Leviathan's biomagnetic field are protected from these effects, but should a Leviathan initiate Starburst while in proximity to other objects, the sudden negative displacement of space-time causes severe physical damage to nearby objects, and these in turn will likely result in fatal damage to the Leviathan (see 3.21 "Into the Lion's Den - Wolf in Sheep's Clothing").