In TNG: "Transfigurations" crew has determined, that their guest's home is around 2.3 parsecs from their current position. In the next scene, captain Jean-Luc Picard told the guest, that it will take at least three weeks before they'll reach his home.

1 parsec is ≈ 206 265 AU ≈ 3,086·1016 m ≈ 30 860 000 000 000 km. 2.3 parsecs is ≈ 71 trillion km. Three weeks equal to 1 814 400 seconds. 71 000 000 000 000 km / 1 814 400 s gives us speed of 39 131 393 km/s. It corresponds to 130,44 c or something a bit more than Warp 4.

Is it really possible to make a precise space charting task, when travelling with speed 130 times faster than light speed? Even in science-fiction and in with assumed 24th century technology, that sounds a little bit like an absurd.

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    One Parsec is approx. 30.857 trillion km, so 2.3 parsecs would be about 71 trillion km. – Stan Oct 15 '14 at 10:47
  • You're most certainly right. Just fixed my calculations. – trejder Oct 15 '14 at 12:58

The distance between stars is such that there is little or nothing along that entire 3 week trip that would need mapping. Space is really, really empty. A more useful conversion on this scale is 1 parsec = 3.26 light years. We're only talking about a 7.5 light year trip here, so the ship can only be expected to encounter one or two systems, assuming a star density roughly equal to that around Earth.

For perspective, even traveling at warp 4, the ship would take about 4 minutes to completely cross a solar system the size of Neptune's orbit. I don't think that it is at all unreasonable to expect that a Galaxy class vessel could map a solar system in 4 minutes. Additionally, there is nothing to suggest that they would be traveling at a constant rate of speed, so if they do want to map a star system more carefully, they could always slow down and spend more time as needed.

From Memory Alpha, Geordi was able to complete a long range sensor scan of a 10 light year radius in a single day. That's vastly more volume than you're talking about.

Your concern about speed is probably too strong. If you're driving down a highway and trying to map out the terrain that is very close to you, it is extremely difficult. It becomes much easier, at any speed, to observe things that are farther away. This is because the more distant objects' angular speed is much lower. The same is true for a jet flying a supersonic speeds. If it is very close to the ground, the trees are moving too fast for a good picture to be taken. If it flies quite high, clear pictures are trivially easy, even at the same speed. For an extreme real life example, mapping satellites travel at several kilometers per second while in orbit but can see whether your kid picked up the toys in your yard or not. For most of its trip, the starship will be quite far from the systems it is mapping, so the ship's speed is more or less irrelevant.


So if 3 weeks (21 days) is about 2.3 parsecs, that comes out to about 1.83 days being the difference between 2.2 and 2.4 parsecs.

This is not implausible at all; for example, looking at the trip from New York to Florida, that's equivalent to around the size of Maryland.

Given how quickly they travel from system to system in general, that leaves a lot of stars (mostly uninhabited) to act as similar signposts in their star charts. Using parsecs as the unit of measure is very imprecise with so few digits.

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    I find all your answers most enlightening. But, I have a problems getting this one, though I read it four or five times. I know, that using parsecs for measures is very imprecise, but that's not a case in this question. I was rather asking, if ship's on-board computers, even in 24-th century, would manage to chart anthing when travelling with such enormous speed? For me, this looks like trying to draw a map to your house, when travelling with the speed of sound. BTW: I think you meant "star systems", not "stars" as all stars (not only most of them) are uninhabited, right? ;] – trejder Oct 15 '14 at 13:03
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    @trejder In that case, might this be a duplicate of What is the range of the Enterprise-D's sensors? ? I mean, you can see a building a long way off even when driving at 80 mph. – Izkata Oct 15 '14 at 13:59

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