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 The Story Behind Stardate 
 and other Terms used in Star Trek 

The Space Shuttle Enterprise and the Cast of Star Trek in 1976. The Shuttle Enterprise and the Cast of Star Trek

In 1976, NASA's space shuttle Enterprise rolled out of the Palmdale, CA manufacturing facilities and was greeted by NASA officials and cast members from the 'Star Trek' television series.  From left to right they are: NASA Administrator Dr. James D. Fletcher; DeForest Kelley, who portrayed Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy on the series; George Takei (Mr. Sulu); James Doohan (Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott); Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura); Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock); series creator Gene Rodenberry; William Schatner (Captain James T. Kirk) edited in, he was in Europe at the time;  and Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov).
                                                                                                            Original Image and Caption Credit: NASA

The Shuttle Enterprise, OV-101, never flew in space. It was the prototype and dropped from a 747 to test its approach and landing capabilities.  The Enterprise is on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York harbor since July 19, 2012.  It was originally on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. until it was replaced by the Shuttle Discovery.

The last flight of the Shuttle Enterprise over New York City.
Move the mouse pointer over the picture to see a different Enterprise!

How the Federation Established Stardate 0.0
by Tom Heald

The Data behind Stardate

When Gene Rodenberry was asked about the basis for Stardate he said they never had a fixed reference; they just kept one Star-day close to one Earth-day, more for convenience than anything else.

Known Stardates from the Star Trek universe:
  • The first episode of The Original Series was set in the Earth year 2256 on Stardate 1512
  • The last episode of The Next Generation was set at the end of the Earth year 2372 on Stardate 43989.
  • So if you assume Jan. 1, 2256 to Jan. 1, 2373 you have 117 years * 365.2425 = 42733.3725 Earth-days.
  • If you calculate 43989 - 1512 (Star Trek Stardates from above) you have 42477 Star-days
  • 42733 Earth-days minus 42477 Star-days = 256 days difference over 177 years = 1.446 or approximately 1.5 days per year difference.
  • If an Earth-year = 365.2425 Earth-days (average Earth-days in a year)
  • Then a Star-year = 363.7340 Star-days (number of longer star-days in an earth-year)

Now lets find a consistent time standard to fit the basic, albeit arbitrary, structure described above. First we must find out when the Stardate clock started to tick.

So Stardate 1512 / 363.7340 = 4 years 57 days before Stardate 1512 which becomes the Stardate epoch. So in Earth days, Stardate 0 is equal to Feb. 26, 2252

See The Stardate Story for the reasons!

The Stardate Math:
To make life easy lets do the math using the frequency of Celsium equal to 9.192631 billion hertz per second. This way I can use a hand calculator.

24*60*60 = 86400 seconds in a day * 9.192631 = 794,243.31 billion hertz per day.  Now round it up to a higher number = 800,000 billion hertz or 8 * 1013 hertz for a Star-day.  After all, the Vulcans were involved and large number expressed as an exponent is a logical number to pick.

Now lets compute how much longer a Star-day is than an Earth day. (800,000 - 794,243.31) / 9.192631 = 626.22876 seconds or 10.437146 minutes.

To express Earth-time as a multiple of Star-time you divide one by the other. 

794,243.31 / 800,000 = .9928041 Star-day in one Earth-day.  

800,000 / 794243.31 = 1.007248 Earth-days in one Star-day.

To convert an Earth date to a Stardate you must first compute the number of days to the Earth day Feb. 26, 2252, and then multiply the days (+ or -) by .9928041.

To convert a Stardate to an Earth date you multiply the Stardate by 1.007248 to get Earth days from Feb. 26, 2252. Then you convert days into months, days, and years taking into account all the rules for leap days. Then if time is involved, you must account for leap seconds. A less precise method converts a Stardate into Earth-days and then divides by 365.2425 -- the average number of days in a year -- and then converts the remainder into month and day and reconcile everything to the epoch.

The Stardate Story

On the 26th of February in the Earth year 2252 the Standard Star Time Treaty was signed by all members of the Federation.  It established that one Star-day was equal to 8 * 1013 cycles of the metallic element cesium, in particular its isotope of atomic weight 133 ("Cs-133").  In Earth terms that established an Earth-day as .9928041 of a Star-day and one Earth-year being equal to 362.62 Star-days.  In Earth terms that meant that a Star-day was about 10.5 minutes longer than an Earth-day.

Just how did the Federation derive the Stardate standard?  The first order of business for the committee was the establishment of a standard day or Star-day. Many representatives wanted their home planet's rotation used as the standard; however, the rotation of any planet vary over time.  After much discussion the element cesium was selected to provide the basic oscillation frequency.  There was a lot of discussion as to the fundamental unit of time that would make up a day, but 8 * 1013 hertz turned out to be close to the planetary rotation for a majority of the members home planets so it was picked as the standard Star-day. After all, the Vulcans were involved and large number expressed as an exponent was logical to pick.

The real problem came when the committee tried to establish an epoch, the instant in time that is arbitrarily selected as a point of reference for Stardate 0.0.  The founding of the Federation in 2161 was the odds-on favorite; however, many members argued for their own most significant date.  The Vulcans ended the argument by proposing the date the Standard Star Time Treaty was to be signed by all members would become the epoch.  Nobody, including the Vulcans, liked the idea much.  However the Vulcans argued that the epoch made no difference as a Stardate was simply a standard that allowed all interstellar travelers to have a reliable time reference.  And since all planets would translate the time standard into their own time, it was only logical that the Stardate epoch have no significance other than its own establishment.  Therefore the Earth day February 26, 2252 at 2:01:12 local time in the Federation Council Chambers in the city of San Francisco, became Stardate 0.0 as the official Stardate clock began ticking.

Earth's Time Standard:
One second is equal to 9,192,631,770 cycles of a Celsium atom as measured by an atomic clock.  A "cesium(-beam) atomic clock" (or "cesium-beam frequency standard") is a device that uses as a reference the exact frequency of the microwave spectral line emitted by atoms of the metallic element cesium, in particular its isotope of atomic weight 133 ("Cs-133"). The integral of frequency is time, so this frequency, 9,192,631,770 hertz (Hz = cycles/second), provides the fundamental unit of time, a second, which may thus be measured by cesium clocks.

So when did the Enterprise C Disappear?
The "Yesterdays Enterprise" episode started on Statdate 43625.2.  Data said it was exactly 22 years 3 months and 4 days since the Enterprise C disappeared.  
  3 months and 4 days = 95 days
  22 years * 364.2425 = 8013.335 days
  Total earth days = 8108 / 1.007248 = 8049.9886
43625.2 - 8049.9886  = 35575.2 which is the Stardate that the Enterprise C disappeared. 

Terms Used in Star Trek

Is the direction from the ship to another object in space where a bearing of "0 mark 0" lies directly ahead. A bearing of "90 mark 20" will point to an object 90 degrees to the right of the Starship and 20 degrees below the horizontal plane of the ship.

In interstellar navigation a Starship's heading describes it's direction relative to the center of the galaxy. It is expressed in degrees of "azimuth mark elevation". A heading of "0 mark 0" points directly to the center of the Galaxy from any point in the Galaxy. A heading of "128 mark 0" points directly away from the center of the Galaxy. A heading of "90 mark 20" will point the bow or front of the ship 90 degrees to the right of an imaginary line from the Starship to the center of the Galaxy, and 20 degrees below that line. Of course right, left, above and below are relative to the captain's view facing the front of the Starship.

In interstellar mapping a volume of space approximately 20 light years on all sides.  The entire Solar system including Earth is located in Sector 001.

The Milky Way Galaxy is divided into the Alpha, Bata, Delta and Gamma quadrants. Given that two perpendicular lines intersect the center of the galaxy and one of the lines intersects Earth -- shown at the bottom of the galaxy -- the Alpha Quadrant falls to the left of Earth and the others follow counter-clockwise around the galactic center. Most of the Federation resides in the Alpha quadrant. The Romulins and Klingons are located in the Beta quadrant.


According to the The Original Series writers guide, the effective range of a transporter is 40,000 kilometers.  Roddenberry once stated in an interview, who needs starships if you can instantly transport any one to any destination at any distance at any time.

There are active and passive sensors; long & short range plus targeting sensors. Long range subspace sensors can apparently detect almost anything instantaneously for parsecs in any direction. They can be tuned to distinguish between races or elements. Sensors can detect ships traveling at any speed.  

Low speed propulsion system generally used for maneuvering in space dock.  

Sub-light propulsion system that is subject to time dilation which is the relativistic slowing of time the faster you travel.  For example, when traveling at close to light speed one would age much slower then others left behind.  In some Stat Trek stories impulse drive has been incorrectly used  to achieve greater than light speed up to around Warp 5; however, full impulse should be about 1/2 light speed.

A faster than light propulsion system that is not subject to time dilation. In essence it warps time to travel from point to point.  Warp 1 is the speed of light (C), with the velocity increasing at the cubic function of warp.  I.E. warp 2 = 8C, 3 = 27C, 4 = 64C ... 10 = 1,000C The maximum warp factor is 9.99 where the warp energy requirements approach infinite.

A little understood propulsion system that allows faster than warp speeds, i.e. warp 10+. The Borg use transwarp but their technology is not clear.  The Excelsior was the Federations failed attempt to achieve  transwarp.

Standard Astronomical Terms

Light year:
The distance that light travels in a vacuum in one year, approximately 9.46 trillion (9.46 1012) kilometers or 5.88 trillion (5.88 1012) miles.

A unit of astronomical length equal to 3.258 light-years. It is the distance that one second of arc covers, one astronomical unit from Earth.

Astronomical Unit:
A unit of length used in measuring astronomical distances within the solar system equal to the mean distance from Earth to the sun, approximately 150 million kilometers (93 million miles).

Terms related to Time Travel:

Alternate Time Line:

Alternate: To pass back and forth from one state, action, or place to another. The existence of several different time lines. A good example is the Parallel Universes theory where Earth (and everything else) exists in an infinite number of copies. When traveling to a parallel universes most people, places and customs would appear familiar with differences ranging from subtle to drastic.

A traveler would retain all knowledge from one's origin universe and when returning, would retain all memories encountered while away. However, individuals existing in a single universes will have no knowledge of their counterparts that may exist in parallel universes. Actions within one universe have no effect on parallel universes. A single universe has only one time line that can be changed but it can not exist in parallel with another time line within the same universe.

Alternative Time Line:
Alternative: The choice between two mutually exclusive possibilities. This is a singly time line that can be diverted by an action, that is to say a nexus. A good example is the "so-called" time travel paradox where one travels back in time and kills one's father.  In this example the time line is diverted and the individual will never be born in the new time line because his father is dead; however, the time traveler will continue to exist in the new time line. 

Furthermore, lets assume that one is diverted into a new time line, records the history of that time line over an extended period, and then travels back in time to the nexus and stops it from happening. This would allow the original time line to continue and the alternative time line will never happen.  The recorded history of the alternative time line would still exist and would not be altered.   What happened, happened.

The individual who traveled back in time would retain all memories experienced in the alternative time line; however, others who existed in both time lines will only retain memories of their current time line, for they will not have experienced the events of the other time line. They may read about themselves in the history brought back from the alternative time line, but because they never experienced it themselves, they have no memory of the events. For the alternative events never have happened! Switching time lines turned the recorded history of an alternative future into fiction.  In essence, it becomes a shadow time; a time that once existed but no longer does.

The time traveler can exist as two individuals in the restored time line: The person he was at the nexus when time was diverted into a new time line, and the older person who traveled back in time to the nexus and stops it from happening.  Any time traveler will coexist with one's counterpart in a continuing time line and may interact with that person.  Events in the new time line will evolve on their own without regard for how events transpired in the shadow time line. 

There is no Time Travel Paradox

The Standard Paradox

A common Time Travel Paradox states that a person goes back in time and kills his father.  If ones father is dead then one can not be born; therefore, there is no one to travel back in time to kill ones father.  The Paradox!  But is it a paradox?  Is that how time works?

Take this example; on the Time Line shown on top:
A. The father is born.
B. The father has an accident and looses a hand.
C. The son is born.
D. The son travels back in time to point B to intervene
     and save his fathers hand.

On the second Time Line:
B. The son's intervention is a catastrophe and the 
     father dies.  This is a nexus where the time
     line is altered.  A different, altered time line
C. The son is not born because his father is dead.
D.  There is no son to travel back in time to save  
      the fathers life.

Time continues on the altered time line.  The old time line will not exist and is in effect a shadow time line. 


However, the son who traveled back in time will continue to exist and will retain all memories of the original -- now a shadow -- time line.  What Happened Happened!  However, just because something happened in a shadow time line, there is no certainty that it will happen in a diverted time line.  There is only one time line and it is always subject to diversions!  It seams inevitable that any time travel will result in some alteration, be it large or small. The real question is "Can one travel back in time?"  If so, then time can be altered and almost certainly will be!

There is no Paradox

Time is not a loop, it is a continuum. Time has a past, a present and an undetermined future.  No one can predict the future.  It is determined by enumerable fluctuations that occur naturally or consciously in every act, whether deliberate, accidental or through some arbitrary circumstance.  Any time travel would almost certainly return to an altered future, whether by the time traveler's actions or simply happenstance.  The future is not predetermined, it is arbitrary, capricious and subject to everyone's free will.

Determinism is a Myth

References and Information used in the Writing of
A Time Before Yesterday 

Beyond Uhura, Star Trek and other Memories, by Nichelle Nichols, Boulevard Books edition (paper back) pages 122-127

Star Trek Creator -- The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, by David Alexander, Penguin Books, First edition (hard cover) Chapters 8 & 9, pages 185 - 265.

Star Trek Chronology -- The history of the Future, by Michael & Denise Okuda, Pocket Books (8 by 10 paper back)

Background Information:
Gene Roddenberry's "The Lieutenant" ran from Sept. 14, 1963 to Sept. 5, 1964 on NBC. It was filmed on the MGM lot where Gene had an office.  Nichelle Nichols played in one of the episodes and she had an affair with Gene around the end of the series.  Gene liked to fly Nichelle to Palm Springs and Santa Barbara for lunch or take her on mad, hair-raising motorcycle rides through Benedict Canyon.

The best time to arrive on Earth is Saturday, February 29, 1964 or March 7, 1964 at the latest.
  • March 11, 1964 Gene Roddenberry committed the Star Trek Concept to paper.
  • April 13, 1964 "The Lieutenant" went out of production.
  • April 24, 1964 Gene Roddenberry registered the Star Trek Concept with the Writers Guild.
Other Important dates:
  • WW 3 ended on the Earth year 2079 according to Q. There is no reference as to when it started or how long it lasted.
  • The Federation was founded on the Earth year 2161.
  • The USS Enterprise C went missing on the Earth year 2344.

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