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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > Star Trek - Original Series

Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old July 6 2013, 08:31 AM   #1
ZapBrannigan
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Boldly Go but Look Where You're Going

Does the Enterprise need a telescope?

I've been thinking about the telescope that Franz Joseph put in the Physics Lab, just below and behind the Bridge. What are the practicalities if this were a real starship that we launched to the stars?

You wouldn't use it while still in our own solar system, because better views are already available from 23rd century astronomy, which presumably has bigger space telescopes than the Enterprise can carry.

There's also an issue, while you're in the solar system, of the sun blocking your ability to see a chunk the galaxy. To see everyplace you might go without waiting months, you'd have to use your warp drive to fly halfway around the sun. But again, regular astronomers are way ahead of you anyway-- they already have those views on file.

So maybe your ship goes out to point in deep space that's no closer to one star than another. They're all just points of light. You stop there and survey the stars you might visit to see which ones have planets in the habitable zone (not too hot, not too cold). Saves you a lot of wasted trips, right?

But it also takes a long time, just sitting there in the middle of no place, waiting to see if a star dims because a planet is crossing in front of it.

The survey could take years.

And similar work has already been accumulated by astronomers back on Earth. All you have to do is ask them for it.

And you've got frickin' warp drive. You can pop over to these solar systems and see them up close faster than your space telescope, starting from scratch, can spot the transit of planets in front of stars.

So should the Enterprise even carry a large telescope?
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Old July 6 2013, 12:39 PM   #2
Metryq
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Re: Boldly Go but Look Where You're Going

TOS revealed a variety of advanced sensing systems aboard the Enterprise. Today's optical, radio and X-ray telescopes may be very primitive by comparison. When Kirk asks for a magnification on the bridge viewscreen, what are we seeing? Is it an actual visible light image of what is outside the ship taken by an optical telescope? Or is it a picture synthesized out of those advanced sensing systems, like synthetic aperture radar today (which can look very photographic) or false color images processed by a computer?

Air traffic radar today is very different from the crude devices used during World War II. Among the developments are discriminator circuits which squelch anything the operator does not want to see. That is, the radar can be finely tuned to see what the users want and/or expect to see. I suppose situations might arise when one wants a "naked eye," unfiltered view of what is outside the ship. But as Zap noted, optical speed-of-light observations aboard an FTL starship are as useless as, oh, an agro "greenhouse" spaceship in orbit around Saturn, or the proverbial screen door on a submarine.
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Old July 6 2013, 02:36 PM   #3
ZapBrannigan
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Re: Boldly Go but Look Where You're Going

Sensor beams seem to act like a faster than light radar, but I'm sure you'll agree you can't look at distant solar systems that way, any more than you could light up the Superdome with a flashlight. (And an astronomer's laser is lucky to bounce one or two photons back from the moon.)

When going into uncharted space, I propose rigging an unmanned, warp-drive shuttlecraft as a recon drone. Let it travel quickly to surrounding star systems while the Enterprise sits in the middle of no place.

When the drone comes back, Kirk reviews its data and decides where to fly the Enterprise to. He'll save tons of warp drive fuel that way, because he won't have to push the mass of the huge starship to every solar system in sight. The little sensor drone will burn a fraction of the fuel.

And the purpose of Franz Joseph's telescope-like device remains a mystery.
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Old July 6 2013, 02:43 PM   #4
CaptainDave1701
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Re: Boldly Go but Look Where You're Going

1) This is a work of science fiction.
2) I would imagine the spectral telescope was cutting edge technology back in the day when it was placed in the drawing.
3) I guess you have to use some kind of technology to see what's out there or we could just look out of the window as they do on the JJ Prise.
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Old July 6 2013, 03:17 PM   #5
Metryq
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Re: Boldly Go but Look Where You're Going

FTL radar may be the way we view the ship's sensors, but they may be something else entirely. Although as CaptainDave1701 noted, it's fiction.

James P. Hogan's novel THE GENESIS MACHINE posited a new type of "telescope" based on a "subspace" realm (called K-space in the book) that may be similar to the Enterprise's sensors. Without getting into all the technobabble of the book, this "telescope" was a passive sensor for particle annihilations that (according to the fictional physics) occur constantly inside all matter. The researchers in the story start out observing the interior of the Sun and Earth, then later refine the device to pinpoint manmade vehicles on the other side of the Earth. If I'm remembering the story correctly, distance was not a factor—the researchers could view other star systems as easily as a building next door. Remember, this device was passive, so there was no need to "light up" an object untold distance away.

Murray Leinster described a similar device (in much less detail) in THE WAILING ASTEROID. Leinster's telescope worked by gravity. Although not stated explicitly in the story, this telescope appeared to be a passive device, too. (While some real-world physicists may tell you gravity travels no faster than light, many others will tell you gravity—whatever it is—travels much faster than light. The late Tom Van Flandern calculated the speed of gravity at around 20 billion times that of light. Assuming that is true, a gravity telescope would still be beyond our technology, as we don't really know what gravity is, let alone have the ability to manipulate it.)

However you slice it, the Enterprise's sensors must work at FTL speeds, since the ship itself travels faster than light, also. Trying to navigate by lightspeed information would result in situations like the (ridiculous) "Picard maneuver."
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Old July 6 2013, 08:00 PM   #6
Timo
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Re: Boldly Go but Look Where You're Going

Franz Joseph's telescope brings forth a question about the field of view of a starship's sensors.

The FJ contraption seemed to be on a pedestal of some sort that would perhaps allow it to be extended and pointed at targets without pivoting the entire ship; otherwise, the sensor would only stare aft, which may not be particularly practical. But what is practical for a starship? There's the big forward-pointing dish, but then there are the supposed sensor domes at top and bottom - and none of these devices actually face the planet the starship is orbiting when Spock performs sensor studies on surface phenomena. (Nor does the FJ telescope, for that matter.)

In TNG, there are frequent references to "lateral" sensors, especially in the context of studying specific point targets (rather than in the more intuitive context of listening to what's happening all around the ship and trying to pinpoint a source). Does this perhaps tie in to Kirk's habit of turning one cheek or the other of the ship towards the planet of interest?

Is it a case of something, perhaps warp drive, creating a huge blind spot in front of a starship, so that the only sensors worth having must be lateral, or even aft-looking?

FWIW, there's "The Corbomite Maneuver" where our heroes seem to be doing exactly what Zap proposed: taking star photos from another angle far off Earth, yielding stereo-view benefits and the ability to peek past obstructions. We don't learn what instrument achieves this, and whether it's the instrument being pointed or the ship, but it still appears that photographing starscapes is worth doing in the 23rd century.

Timo Saloniemi
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