A homing beacon, homing device, tracer, tracer beacon, tracking device, or pulsing beacon was used to track starships or any other entity being transported. Capable of transmitting data enormous distances, homing beacons could relay the position of a ship even after several hyperspace jumps.
Imperial beacons (and, presumably, ones used by the Galactic Republic) used non-mass HoloNet transceivers located in hyperspatial "simu-tunnels" to track ships through hyperspace. When a homing beacon passed a transceiver, the incident was logged; allowing trackers to determine the heading of a vessel from a collection of these reports.
Many homing beacons were miniaturized, so as to prevent detection by the crew of the ship being tracked. As such, they could be hidden either inside of the ship or tucked in some crevice on the ship's exterior; in fact, some beacon models were small enough to be thrown towards a departing ship's hull.
Obi-Wan Kenobi used such a device on Slave I in order to track Jango Fett to Geonosis just prior to the start of the Clone Wars. Around 3 ABY, IG-88B used a set of ultra-small microtracers to track Boba Fett, Dengar, Bossk, Zuckuss, 4-LOM and their ships, in an attempt to have them do the work of tracking down Han Solo for him.
Grand Master Yoda also used a homing beacon to be tracked by Bail Organa and escape from Palpatine and his shock troopers in Coruscant.
The Empire also used a similar device to track the Millennium Falcon in order to discover the location of the hidden Rebel base on Yavin 4. The beacon was planted aboard the Falcon by a HMOR homing droid.
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