In the Star Trek universe, the date (used in Captain's logs etc) is referred to as the "Stardate". Following the wiki, this new format is a bit of a one-string format for the "DD:MM:YY:HH" system. I.e. "12/1/2012, 12PM" would be "201212.5" (apologies to all the hardcore trekkies - I'm new at this).

My question is why was this new format introduced? Was it a decision made by the humans, to keep track of the day & time in space (they don't exactly have the same solar cycles to follow in space), or was it more of a galactical format used by the other space-faring races that they adopted once they entered the space-race - in which case what event is this based on (i.e. BCE/CE or BC/AD is based of the Birth of Christ)?

  • Hey. Quick question - wouldn't it be 01:12:12:.5 instead of 20:12:12:.5? (Assuming the .5 is 12pm, and also assuming date before month). Or 12:01:12:.5, if it was supposed to be month before date (I'm trying to check, not assume, if the numbers are scrambled - different places change the order).
    – Megha
    Aug 29 '16 at 3:23
  • @Megha I'm not entirely sure myself of exactly how the whole format works, I just used that as an example. But my question isn't about what the format is, but why it's used.
    – Ben
    Aug 29 '16 at 4:03
  • It's a good question, I don't happen to have an answer to it :) I was just wondering, because I noticed the difference in the numbers, and it distracted me... and if it had been a typo rather than not caring, I thought you might have wanted to fix it. I hope you get a good answer, though.
    – Megha
    Aug 29 '16 at 4:18
  • 1
    For proper order and sorting I'd assume that the order is year, month, day. Otherwise you'd end up with horribly hard to compare timestamps
    – Mario
    Aug 29 '16 at 5:15
  • Downvoter care to explain?
    – DavidS
    Aug 29 '16 at 9:02

The in-universe reason given during the initial planning of the show was that time itself varies depending on both speed and gravity. Because of this, different areas of the universe may have different flows of time, and the old method of telling time only worked well when Earth was the constant.

"They marked off sections on a pictorial depiction of the known universe and extrapolated how much earth time would elapse when traveling between given points, taking into account that the Enterprise's warp engines would be violating Einstein's theory that nothing could exceed the speed of light. They concluded that the 'time continuum' would therefore vary from place to place, and that earth time may actually be lost in travel. 'So the stardate on Earth would be one thing, but the stardate on Alpha Centauri would be different,'

- Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek

In answering these questions, I came up with the statement that "this time system adjusts for shifts in relative time which occur due to the vessel's speed and space warp capability. It has little relationship to Earth's time as we know it. One hour aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise at different times may equal as little as three Earth hours. The star dates specified in the log entry must be computed against the speed of the vessel, the space warp, and its position within our galaxy, in order to give a meaningful reading." Therefore star date would be one thing at one point in the galaxy and something else again at another point in the galaxy.

- The Making of Star Trek

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