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In Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Picard (or the acting captain at that moment) orders "On screen!" when he or she sees a ship or object of interest, they can zoom in with great accuracy.

But where are these cameras located on the ship? Is it a big array full of high quality cameras, or a big module carrying one high powered camera? If so is it turret based or are there multiple cameras stationed at strategic areas?

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  • I think a copy of the EMH might be on the hull snapping pictures with his holo-imager. Apr 9 at 4:26
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    There are no cameras. Apr 9 at 21:19
  • I'm not sure that the TNG state of technology uses optical cameras (the way we understand that term today) to produce the screen imagery. I doubt that (current-physics based) optics can produce the detailed long-range views we get to see in the show. Apr 13 at 9:18
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According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, the Enterprise-D is equipped with six lateral sensor arrays. The Primary Hull has forward-facing, port-facing and starboard-facing sensor arrays, while the Secondary (Engineering) Hull has aft-facing, port-facing and starboard-facing sensor arrays.

The Galaxy Class Enterprise features one of the most sophisticated and flexible sensor packages ever developed for a Federation starship. These sensors make the Enterprise one of the most capable scientific research vessels ever built.

There are three primary sensor systems aboard the Enterprise. The first is the long-range sensor array located at the front of the Engineering Hull. This package of high-power devices is designed to sweep far ahead of the ship's flight path to gather navigational and scientific information.

The second major sensor group is the lateral arrays. These include the forward, port and starboard arrays on the rim of the Primary Hull, as well as the port, starboard and aft arrays on the Secondary Hull. Additionally, there are smaller upper and lower sensors arrays located near Decks 2 and 16 on the Primary Hull, providing coverage in the lateral arrays' blind spots.

The final major group is the navigational sensors. These dedicated sensors are tied directly into the ship's Flight Control systems and are used to determine the ship's location and velocity. They are located on the forward, upper port, upper starboard, aft, and upper and lower arrays.

In addition, there are several packages of special-purpose and engineering sensors such as the subspace flow sensors located at various points on the ship's skin.

See the diagrams below for the precise locations of the sensor arrays.

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    It's quite possible that the images on the view screen are constructed from sensor readings. There would be a lot of advantages to doing that, especially when ambient lighting might not do a great job of whatever you're looking at, or when you want a false colour image. Apr 8 at 23:36
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    @SpacePhoenix - The only in-universe camera mentioned within the Technical Manual is the 'virtual particle mapping camera', which is one of the components of the lateral sensor arrays. The Technical Manual also mentions the out-of-universe cameras used to film the ship miniature. Those are the only two instances in which that word is used in the whole Manual. Apr 9 at 0:22
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    @SpacePhoenix Wouldn’t optical wavelength sensors (cameras) be located in the arrays with the other sensors? Apr 9 at 15:03
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    @SpacePhoenix: Cameras are nothing but sensors for visibile light. It's plainly obvious to me, at least, that there's no need for explicit cameras. Apr 9 at 17:26
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    @Tom Sol - This what the Technical Manual has to say about the main viewer: "At the very front of the bridge chamber is located a large (4.8 × 2.5 meter) visual display panel. This main viewer is generally used to display the output of one of the forward optical scanners, but can easily be reset for any other visual, informational, or communications use." Apr 14 at 23:18

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