Some sensor trivia

A couple of examples of sensor use in Trek that may be useful as a demonstration of capability...

First from "Parallels", the Argus array was able to take a scan of the Utopia Planitia base on the surface of Mars. The telescope is on the Cardassian border! No canonical distance figure is available, though the non canonical Star Charts puts it at more than 70 light years. The quality of the image is sufficient to make out individual structures.

Second, from "Bloodlines", Picard is searching for his old girlfriend and possible son on the surface of a planet using the E-D sensors. The ship is able to scan part of a continent and pick out the eight Humans present amongst the native population. Data then reports "Three are female. However they are all too young to be Miranda Vigo. " When asked about the males he replies "One is an infant, another is elderly, two are middle-aged." He has trouble reading the eighth, as he is two kilometres under ground, but he is "Male. Between 20 and 30 years old."


Author said...

One of these days I really should get around to doing a write-up of sensor capabilities. I've included little bits of it piecemeal thus far (such as the detection of campfires from orbit in TNG, scanning inbound warships while hours away at warp in ENT, looking for Borg ships from 20ly away in VOY, and so on), but a united page would do wonders.

The only trick would be the seeming contradictions ("Captain, we can't see s*** because of the crapionic field!") and finding the right balance of ubertech versus 'realism'.

I'm thinking specifically of instances like the Academy flight team accident that Wesley was a part of, where the spotty records about fighter-size vessels flying around within the Sol system seemed entirely normal, as I recall.

WeMustBeMad said...

I get the strong impression that sensors are not routinely used on anything like their maximum capability - for instance characters frequently make special note when an alien ship scans them, implying that this is not the norm. And captains almost always have to ask their officers to scan for lifeforms or whatever, then wait whilst the scan is performed.

I suspect the normal operating mode only picks out fairly large or obvious things, and it's then an operator choice as to whether to do a more intensive and detailed scan.

As for the effects of fictional stuff, who knows? Fictional science does whatever the plot needs it to. For all we know a modern radar wouldn't pick out a B-52 at ten feet when nonexistium particles are around, and it's an absolute miracle that trek sensors can do anything at all.

Author said...

No, no, no, that's the handwavium. The nonexistium does totally different things to radar. Until next week, anyway. ;)

Anonymous said...

A note on the Argus Array being on the Cardassian border - DS9 is also about at the Cardassian border (one of the nearer points, apparently, given that DS9 and vicinity are used for staging into Cardassian territory by Federation and Klingons alike) and is canonically "hundreds of light years" away.