In the new Star Trek movie, Spock says that a "supernova threatened the entire galaxy". Yet in various TV episodes (notably ST:VOY - The Q and the Grey) only those ships and planets that were in close proximity were destroyed by supernova explosions.

However, the following source says that a supernova 3000 light years away could dump a 1000 solar flares' worth of gamma radiation on Earth. This source argues that Romulus, Kronos, Vulcan and a number of other worlds must be within 200 light years of Earth.

Does this mean that the supernova that destroyed Romulus was going to destroy almost all the federation planets, its allies and its neighboring enemies? Or the entire galaxy? If so, how did the Delta Quadrant survive multiple supernova explosions with hardly any destruction (in the Voyager episode mentioned above)?

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    Maybe it threatened the galaxy because the damage it would cause to the Romulan Empire would destabilize the balance of power in that quadrant?
    – Tango
    Feb 12, 2012 at 16:31
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    @TangoOversway that makes the most sense. Any other type of damage would take hundreds or thousands of years to actually manifest, speed of light being what it is.
    – Chad Levy
    Feb 13, 2012 at 5:51
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    @Paperjam Not necessarily, tachyons do exist in Star Trek. So there's not really a reason to limit radiation to light speed, considering so many only exist in Trek.
    – Izkata
    Sep 27, 2012 at 0:56
  • I can't remember exactly, but the Hobus supernova was a >! deliberate act, an attack by Iconians? I vaguely remember some Romulans, possibly Sela, having a hand in it. It'd never stop, it kept feeding on it's own energy and the destruction it caused. The entire galaxy would be consumed by the wildfire
    – Petersaber
    Jun 30, 2015 at 7:45

5 Answers 5


That's an unbelievably (I will refrain from saying "impossibly") powerful supernova that Spock's talking about. For reference, the most powerful supernova ever observed had a peak energy output of about 1011 times higher than our sun. That would only make it comparable in energy output to the entire galaxy, and obviously the galaxy is not threatening itself. The apparent luminosity of the supernova would be equal to that of the sun if the supernova were 5 light years away, so the brightness would only be horribly problematic for a tiny portion of the galaxy; there are of course other problems (shockwaves of gas, intense gamma rays, etc.) but none are galaxy-threatening (even if you would prefer to be a few hundred light years away). (For example, gamma ray bursts, if caused by supernovae (which is not yet certain), are very directed.) So, anyway, the event that Spock is talking about would have to be truly extraordinary. Normal supernovae are simply not that bad.

Without knowing the exact distances to Romulus etc., or the strength of their supernova, it's hard to judge how much destruction that even would have caused beyond Romulus itself.

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    But a sufficiently powerful gamma ray burst could conceivably render many worlds of the Federation uninhabitable if it were positioned properly. With Federation science being what it was, it should be possible to have an awareness of stars that could potentially become gamma-ray bursters and have some sort of contingency plan. Might not affect the Universe, but two dozen planets within the are of effect, might beg to differ. It's their planet and there are no other exactly like it. Feb 12, 2012 at 19:34
  • @ThaddeusHowze - The quote was that it "threatened the entire galaxy", not "a significant fraction of the Federation". I agree that it could be a major disaster for the Federation, but that's not what was being claimed.
    – Rex Kerr
    Feb 12, 2012 at 21:54
  • We all know that the only thing gamma ray bursts can cause is a problematic green anger management problem..
    – Kalissar
    Jul 8, 2013 at 12:47
  • @RexKerr To be fair, in usual human speach, I can easily imagine that being interpreted as "threatening the entire galaxy". After all, we talk about the end of the world all the time even though we mean something incredibly tiny by copmarison, like a climate change on one tiny planet. If it kills of most of the Federation, it's definitely a "world ender" as far as they are concerned :) Using "threatening the galaxy" would be similar to people now using "threatening the planet" when all that's at stake is a minor climatic change that might kill off most species on Earth.
    – Luaan
    Jul 27, 2015 at 12:33

I can only address the last question: "If so, how did the Delta Quadrant survive multiple supernova explosions with hardly any destruction (in the Voyager episode mentioned above)?"

The reason is because they weren't "normal" supernovae.

The female Q suggests flying straight into one of the numerous supernovae, after explaining that they're not normal supernovae but echoes of the battle in the Continuum

Also, Supernovae in real universe drastically differ in released energy.


A supernova couldn't physically threaten the entire galaxy. And Spock has never used hyperbole. However, it could be a major threat politically and socially. There's a balance of power in the area of the galaxy around the Federation (both the Alpha and Beta quadrants, since the dividing line between the two falls on Sol) that has evolved between the major powers, which would be (as of the last time we saw it), the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, and the Cardassians. This balance of power also extends to the Gamma quadrant through the wormhole. By the time Spock is dealing with this issue, it could even involve keeping the Borg in check in the Gamma Quadrant.

What effects the Federation also effects any place the Federation has interests and a presence. If the Romulan Empire is destabilized, that creates opportunities for the Cardassians and others to invade where they were once kept in check.

It's not that it effects the entire galaxy physically, but politically.

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    +1 for "balance of power". Beat me to it (by over a year, darn your cat-like reflexes).
    – bitmask
    Jun 29, 2013 at 17:59
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    Exactly! I explained it to my self as shorthand for "Removing the Romulan home world, thereby removing such a large military player would threaten the political stability of the entire known galaxy. That and it sounds like a BIG DEAL Mar 10, 2015 at 13:02
  • So what Spock said was true... from a certain point of view. Jun 30, 2022 at 21:24

It is pretty well established that this isn't a normal supernova. From the unusually high energy, to the possibility of toxic radiation it may be that the effect of the supernova would spread from it's point of origin decimating worlds. A destructive wave that would spread across this spiral arm touching every world with fiery poisons death, even if you were able to defend the planetary population centers of developed worlds, unless you had a planetary shield of sufficient magnitude to defend you, large swaths of you planet would die. To say nothing of the un-developed races, or the multitude of non military vessels, and space habitats that would go undefended. Especially if this threat was somehow worsened by some outside force as implicated in the MMO. Wildly no cannon, I know, but still a possibility. Who knows if there is a race on the far side or Romulan space that is willing to go out in a suicidal blaze of vengeance against their conquerors/oppressors.


Try this on for size. The supernova that destroyed Romulus was no normal supernova, a detail that Spock doesn't want to share with the past. It could contaminate the timeline further and it wouldn't serve his objectives of stopping Nero or making buddies of Kirk and Spock.

Perhaps it was an artificial super-supernova created by some future villain, and someone might get it in their head to destroy the future villain's planet, for example. So Spock lies by omission, a classic Spock move.

The real question is when will we get to see that movie.

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    Welcome to SFF.SE. This answer doesn't add anything that isn't addressed by previous answers except speculation about a future villain. Consequently, it would be better as a comment to the question or one of the previous answers. Once you have earned 50 reputation you will be able to comment everywhere.
    – Null
    Mar 9, 2015 at 20:04
  • Really? Where else did someone suggest that Spock may be hiding information? Challenging one of the assumptions of the question is fair if the assumption is flawed or it leads to a greater understanding.
    – J Doe
    Mar 9, 2015 at 22:19
  • Spock already shared the detail that the supernova (which wasn't in the Romulus system) destroyed Romulus. It didn't just sterilize the surface; it blew it apart, and Kirk saw that in Spock's memory. Assuming real-world astrophysics, that's more than enough to imply that it's no normal supernova. Mar 9, 2015 at 23:33

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