Mapping the galaxy

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Unicron, Jul 29, 2021.

  1. Unicron

    Unicron Boss Monster Mod Moderator

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    I was reading another thread earlier about one of the known problems in TWOK (the apparent loss of CA6 and whether the system was really well known or mapped), and although it's always one of my favorite Trek movies, I'll agree that's one of several plot problems that could have been less problematic. :rommie:

    It got me thinking about how exploration works in Trek, and how accurate maps can be made and retained. I can recall from memory several TNG mentions of the D exploring sectors that were new and uncharted, even with the occasional exotic and unexpected boost (like the Cytherians or Q flinging the ship into the path of the Borg). Voyager of course mapped a considerable chunk of the DQ.

    The concept of worlds or systems becoming "lost" is occasionally mentioned in the Battletech series as a potential game aid, though in context it's more like certain worlds being removed from "official" maps if it either serves a specific purpose or if constant war arguably screwed up the borders. ComStar apparently hid a couple of worlds this way for ages, and was also able to hide their small fleet of Star League-era capital ships because open space is vast and they could control who knew the locations of those systems, or had access.

    There are also worlds in the deeper Periphery that essentially fell apart once the Star League collapsed and no one remembered them. Space travel is slower and more complex in the BT universe, so that does play a role in terms of where you want to go, how to get there, and what risks might be involved. The Clan War happened because a ComStar vessel accidentally misjumped into Clan space, at least as far as the official accounts are concerned.

    What do you think in terms of space mapping and the likelihood of things occasionally being "lost" or concealed?
     
  2. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    If you ever lost your car keys in your home, then losing an entire planet within the Galaxy isn't that far-fetched, IMO.
    :hugegrin:

    I think the key is how often a planet--or even an entire star system--is visited. If it's repeatedly visited or encountered, that's one thing, but if it's just one out of countless one-time only things catalogued and then filed away somewhere, it may become just a file number in a sea of file numbers. There could also be countless systems within Federation influence that may be on a star chart, but have never been given much more than a brief lookover decades ago. It might take something of some significance--like a top-secret planet-making project--to send a ship in for a closer, more detailed look. It may even result in some initial survey information being substantially updated.
     
  3. Felderburg

    Felderburg Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I think it makes a certain amount of sense until someone starts actually looking at the stars. You can't hide their light from every telescope. The plot point in Star Wars where Obi-Wan finds a planet that has been erased from a map, but discovers its location using gravitational forces (I think?) illustrates this perfectly. Now, it's possible that in some settings (especially Battletech) everyone is too busy fighting/trying to survive to give scientists time to stargaze, so they have to rely on maps that may or may not be accurate... but in a world like Star Trek where there's loads of telescopes and ships doing scientific surveys, I don't think things would remain lost for (relatively) long.

    Now, it seems clear in TWOK that Starfleet hadn't done much surveying or anything of Ceti Alpha in quite some time, which would explain their lack of knowledge about recent events in the system. And it's possible that without the Genesis project requiring some planet to test things on, they wouldn't have known for even longer, but I would assume that someone, at some point, would have noticed something. The obvious counterpoint to this is the 'space is big' argument, and the fact that scientists in Star Trek seem to be focused on things that are 'out there' and unexplored, which increases the time that someone notices something amiss in the local area.

    So I would generally say it depends on the nature of the universe, and how much people care about 'unimportant' systems. If you're in Star Wars or Battletech, where most citizens are busy with day-to-day mercantile stuff or the wars that seem to keep happening, I imagine there won't be many people or much time to go hunting for systems that don't have much relevance. But in a world where people tend to want to explore and have a systemic method of double checking things and institutionalized keeping track of records, it's less likely.
     
  4. Shik

    Shik Commander Red Shirt

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    Sure, it's easy to lose places. Consider how much space you're working with.

    I had to calculate frontier borders for my project, including the difference between "local space" (areas that are considered well-travelled & well-known), "explored space" (areas less known & travelled that have had at least both an initial & follow-up voyage; these have probably been roughly mapped & charted), & "known space" (it's been looked at & surveyed from afar, but never really visited).

    So, using the figures I worked with while writing, the frontier–that is, the edge of explored space beyond which front-line starships boldly go–sat at a rough 860 light-year radius from Sol on the galactic XY plane & about 175 light-years at its peak on the galactic ±Z axis. This gives us a rough volume of some 542 million cubic light-years. At that point, assuming even distribution of 300 exploration-rated starships, each one would be responsbile for covering a volume of about 1.8 million ly³, a cube that would be 122 ly per side, or approximately 6.1 standard-size sectors. For each ship.

    That is a LOT of volume, even if it is mostly empty or "uninteresting". So yeah, I'd say the chances of things being overlooked until some low-level overworked analyst at Memory Alpha can collate everything are pretty high.
     
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  5. Unicron

    Unicron Boss Monster Mod Moderator

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    The Deep Periphery in BT is kind of like that, in that those worlds are the furthest ones to have been colonized at some point by humans, and the distance is enough from the core worlds of the major states that travel would be slower even in a long period of peace. Some colonies came into existence by accident when ships went off course and crashed, and many DP worlds are much lower in population than their busier counterparts. It offers some interesting gaming/story possibilities.

    The Clans faced a similar problem when they first began exploring the worlds they landed on as the Star League Defense Force in exile, as the five original colonies (the Pentagon worlds) are kind of only moderately suitable for humans. They had to overcome new forms of disease and animal life to truly flourish there.

    I kind of wonder too if there's any possibility that a massive library like Memory Alpha could be a conceivable target. FASA had a module where the Orions managed to steal an ancient Romulan War-era prototype that Federation forces had captured during that conflict, and kept at MA. The players have to stop them from arming the ship and then selling it on the galactic black market.
     
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  6. Dr. Kravaal

    Dr. Kravaal Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There is one other thing to consider.
    The loss of Memory Alpha to Zetar.

    A modern day analog was the big St Louis fire that burned up Veterans records…the studio fires…library discards. I remember hearing how Saturn V F-1 engines didn’t always jive with drawings. Tribal aerospace knowledge is often lost.

    In The Spaceflight Handbook, there is a blurb about a star called DM 61 + 366 that is to make a close pass of our solar system in a million years or so. Is this the same as Gliese 710…or not?

    I still can’t tell.

    All data is perishable.

    Galeras was a disaster because seismologists and volcanologists didn’t have intellectual cross pollination. Data can hide. This can only get worse. How many times have folks followed GPS right into a lake or something?
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021
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  7. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Starships seem to exist for a reason. We know there are telescopes that can peer across hundreds or thousands of lightyears at near-realtime, but we also get the impression they can only focus on one target at a time, much like today. If such a device were aimed one degree aside from a local Armageddon, said calamity would go utterly unnoticed, until somebody did aim at that very direction - which might literally be millions of years later, given how many degrees there are to cover and how unlikely it is for the UFP to sport millions of telescopes for the job.

    Anybody aiming at Ceti Alpha would be unlikely for a number of reasons:

    - It's probably very close to where Kirk first spotted Khan, for various plot reasons, and that area was declared to be of no further interest to Earthlings.
    - Kirk would have specifically chosen a place of banishment that interested nobody: a prospector looking for unobtainium should not be allowed to show interest, lest he die and Khan escape.
    - All the tying up of loose ends into a small-universe knot establishes the Regula lab's Mutara Sector to have been the very "Space Seed" area of space. If it's Starfleet's very own Area 47, then people aiming their telescopes there would be politely told to cease to do so, or to remember, or even to exist.

    So at best, somebody in a nearby system would have the opportunity notice twenty or fifty (light)years later that a thing in the sky goes pop, or at least pifff. If it's a night sky, he might even pay attention. But probably not.

    So, starships. Which, like early explorers of the oceans, might only have a vague idea of where they are, after all those adventures in the Eddies of spacetime, so their as such accurate local maps might have unreliable coordinates, and other skippers would treat them with healthy distrust. Sensors beat maps every time, especially considering time lag issues and the tendency of drastic stuff (mobile or edible planets, say) to happen in Trek.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  8. Dr. Kravaal

    Dr. Kravaal Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The light delay is another factor. Ceti Alpha VI would appear intact years after the disaster. It was likely the outermost world, not unlike the TRAPPIST system.

    You set course and kick back.

    Pop out of warp and head for the outermost world, which you “assume” is IV.

    Not unlike how I set my medication on the counter, and apparently nod at it going to work, and I get back and see it still on the counter with me thinking I’ve taken it.

    Complacency is what we learn from ST II: TWOK. By the TNG era, the lessons learned are now as part of the curriculum as Kobayashi Maru.

    I can see it being war gamed with a cadet having Enterprise fire at Reliant and duck behind the Regula station for cover and concealment. When entering a system…mind your charts. Friendly vessel or not…if no reply, raise shields as Saavik wanted. Have the other ships prefix code handy if available.

    I’m sure you can come up with more…call them the Reliant protocols:

    Report…come across a silent ship..call us
    Enquire……………….. “Who Goes There?
    Listen …………………. pay attention
    Investigate……………why won’t they..
    Assume-
    Nothing
    Think! …..self explanatory
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2021
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  9. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    We get no limit on the number of planets at Ceti Alpha. The more, the merrier IMHO. What defines "VI" is not the orbit, but the desertlike disposition apparent in a terminal approach scan...

    The two ways to contradict that would be

    a) compare the orbital parameters to records anyway, and
    b) scan every other planet in the system in order to get a complete picture and a proper count.

    But there's no good reason to do b. The other rocks in the system are elsewhere and not bothering our sidekicks. Why scan them? Kirk never did. And any rubble from the real VI might be elsewhere, too, on the other side of the star and in no way associated with the evident desert world - again to be ignored, like Kirk ignored the rubble on approach in "Doomsday Machine".

    Would there be a reason to do a? The intent would appear to be Genesis-bombing the place to smithereens; would it matter where the smithereens were, before or after? Records in Trek tend to be wrong or outdated by events, but a wrongly recorded orbit is not an event a mighty starship ought to mind much. If all the other fifty planets at Ceti Alpha suddenly tried to rush the Reliant, she'd simply dodge. Since they don't, Terrell beams down with his trusted sidekick-of-a-sidekick.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  10. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    IMO if you were going to strand a large number of super beings, I would carefully survey the system. Make sure nothing of value is in it. No life forms, especially with spaceflight ability. Chart all major bodies to insure you know where Ceti Alpha V will be for hundred+ years.
     
  11. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ...And then tell nobody.

    That's the key step, really. If you do a detailed survey and then publish it, people will get interested, even if the survey report says "nothing of interest here, move on". There will be questions asked: "Why exactly did this do this survey? Why were you there in the first place? Weren't you supposed to be delivering bublagoops to Khemedia III or something?".

    Then again, we still don't know why Kirk was where he was in the first place. He met the Botany Bay in space forgotten by Earthlings, apparently too close to home to be of interest. So what was he himself doing there? Was it a shortcut between spots of interest?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  12. BK613

    BK613 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Since Space Seed takes place a few episodes after Tomorrow Is Yesterday, both production-wise and stardate-wise, one could conjecture that they were transiting a rarely-traveled path on the way back to where they were supposed to be.
     
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  13. XCV666

    XCV666 Premium Member

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    It doesn't really matter. They charted it. Reliant knew there was a star there with at least six planets. They were doing a survey of planets. Not exactly out of their bailiwick to count them and notice one missing.

    It makes little sense that Enterprise wouldnt have at least reported some information on the planet "Ceti Alpha V, life supporting planet. Sentient beings: marooned augment crew."

    But Reliant seems to think they are looking at the sixth planet and not expecting any life to be there. So we're left with options:

    Kirk not only did not check their progress. He never even notified starfleet about what he did.

    or

    Someone in Starfleet removed the records. Like possible some nefarious intel organization that would have an interest in keeping a confined but useful group of augments around just in case.

    or

    The Reliant's captain and crew were completely incompetent.
     
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  14. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Kirk never had the slightest interest in seeing Khan again. He marooned the man.

    Kirk didn't want progress. He wanted Khan to die a dignified death without blood in Kirk's own hands. Spock then idly speculated what it would be like to check back a century later, and both laughed at the very idea.

    Telling the world that Kirk did maroon Khan would defeat the purpose: Khan had just nearly succeeded in taking over the universe by sweet-talking his way to the command of a starship, and should never be allowed to speak with anybody again. Plus, the argument still was that the world wasn't ready for 80 Napoleons, so telling 'em would hurt 'em.

    Kirk wouldn't have surveyed the place, because his records already told him all he needed to know. Terrell would assume the very same. It was just a bit unfortunate that a planet then blew up. But stuff like that happens all the time, and records are of zero help there: the good captain simply keeps his eyes open and swaps away the PADD containing the misleading data.

    As far as records go, Kirk was notorious for not telling even his bosses when he met people. But here he might well tell his bosses, presuming that they were neo-Khanazis just like all of Kirk's own top officers save Spock were. And the bosses would then make sure that the data was buried - not suppressed outright, but simply made unnoticeable. And since no red flags accompanied Terrell's routine googling of the place...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  15. yotsuya

    yotsuya Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    My take is that Ceti Alpha is victim to bureaucracy. The original survey ship had to cover x systems in x days. They had limited time in each system. They got the highlights but not the details. To map a system quickly, they would fly parallel to the general orbital plane of the planets at some distance. They would be able to pick out the planets by how they move in relation to the background. They warp to each one for a closer inspection, and then go to the next system. In order to determine the orbit of a planet around its star you have to make observations over time. Just a quick look only gives you one point. You don't know if it is perihelion or aphelion or some other point in the orbit. Earth moves two million miles between perihelion and aphelion. Other planets move more or less. So when the Enterprise deposits Khan and his people in the system, they might have recorded another snapshot or they might have just zeroed in on the fifth planet, verified it was habitable, and then left. It may have been uploaded to Starfleet or it might not. But they probably didn't take the time to do another survey. So 15 years later Reliant comes along looking for uninhabited planets and they have one listed in the system. They spot a planet in the area they estimate CA6 to be and the find a planet close enough and with the right description and go to check it out. They would not be surprised that it was not exactly where it was because the orbit was just an estimate after a brief survey at some point more than 15 years ago. They would just assume that the planet they find is CA6 as that is the description it matches and they would not find it odd that it isn't in a particular spot because it takes time to plot an accurate orbit of a planet which was not the job of the original survey vessel, but exploration vessels like Enterprise and Reliant. They survey vessel would be covering a large area looking for targets for further exploration and not have time to dedicate to mapping all the orbits of all the planets. Some outer planets could take decades of careful observation to accurately map.

    But I want to stress that it would take a lot of time, or at least more than one visit to a system to accurately be able to map the orbits of the planets. It is not something you do quickly and a lot of what we see in Star Trek is a bit of haste and doing as much as possible.
     
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  16. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Not enough time on an open ended mission for Reliant to determine on 5 planets versus six exist now?
     
  17. BK613

    BK613 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    At a minimum, the Reliant was the third ship to visit the system. There was the one that provided the info that Kirk and Spock used in Space Seed. Then there was the Enterprise, who visited while dropping off Khan and his people. A ship of exploration which had to be there long enough to transfer two cargo carriers worth of stuff to the surface in addition to the 74 exiles.
     
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  18. dupersuper

    dupersuper Commodore Commodore

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    Hundreds of thousands of light years? Into intergalactic space?

    As Carol said to David, I can not subscribe to your interpretation of events.
     
  19. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    We never hear of such a thing. Hundreds or thousands we do hear of, in "Parallels" and the like.

    But current, real-world, non-realtime telescopes can see far. Possibly there's little demand for realtime knowledge of truly faraway affairs, because nothing out there can reach us particularly fast (say, the calamity at Andromeda).

    Yet "Space Seed" makes it clear Kirk never intends to come back, and doesn't believe that anybody else would ever see Khan again, either. Spock's idle speculation to the contrary is what solidly confirms this.

    How much Kirk had to lie and cheat to ensure that nobody would ever visit Khan is unknown. And in the end, if such an effort was made, it failed. But it's right down Kirk's alley, as per "Metamorphosis": Kirk grants his heroes their eternal privacy, by lying to his bosses if necessary.

    Or then Kirk's data was based on telescopic or probe observations.

    But the initial action in "Space Seed" takes place in space deemed no longer interesting by Earthlings. We might well speculate that 22nd century folks visited the Ceti Alpha system quite frequently, but ultimately found nothing attractive in a rugged Class M planet when their warpships could now reach far prettier Class M planets with relative ease. Or we might assume Ceti Alpha was just the right distance away from Earth to be bypassed when warp went from slow to medium and Vulcan/early Federation star charts were made public, and settlers sped right past it thanks to being informed of greener pastures farther away.

    Still, the issue stands that starships let alone lesser vessels do very little surveying unless tasked with it specifically. Even counting of planets is far from trivial: to achieve that, you actually have to point your instruments at each and every one specifically. And we know for a fact that Kirk doesn't count planets, as per "Doomsday Machine". Random settlers wouldn't, either. So only one scenario caters for detailed knowledge of the system: the one where there was a bona fide survey prior to "Space Seed". And we don't really need to believe in one, and Kirk need not trust one, either. It suffices for Spock to be correct about the existence of Ceti Alpha V there.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2021
  20. dupersuper

    dupersuper Commodore Commodore

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    Well, I mean, that's where you'd be looking if you looked hundreds of thousands of light years away.

    Um...no. I don't get how you're inferring that.