1

Starfleet vessels have Spacetime warping capabilities and they contain a wide variety of exotic chemicals and elements, not to mention antimatter.

My question is; what would happen if the USS Enterprise-D or USS Enterprise-E crashed into the Sun? Would the star be affected in some way? Would the warp field (or the contents of the ship) cause the star to explode or something?

Answers based on canon references only, please.

  • 13
    I suspect the result would be the same as crashing the U.S.S. Enterprise-C into the sun. – O. R. Mapper Apr 25 '15 at 13:48
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    The Sun is very big. It would't even notice if Earth crashed into it, much less Enterprise. – Kreiri Apr 25 '15 at 14:03
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    I'm at a loss why this is getting "opinion-based" close votes when we've seen very similar events happen... – Valorum Apr 25 '15 at 14:07
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    I'm going to say this is impossible to answer. On one hand, the scales are such that the answer "in real life" is definitely nothing, even with all that antimatter. On the other hand, we know Star Trek has plot-related sun-turn-off elements (Generations, I think one time in DS9), so who knows what, specifically. – zeldredge Apr 25 '15 at 14:21
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    @creationedge - I'm convinced there was an episode where the Enterprise arrived in a system and detected that a ship had recently hit the local star. But I'm blowed if I can find it. – Valorum Apr 27 '15 at 11:50
21

I'm gonna go with "nothing detectable".

The closest situation we see is in TNG : Suspicions. Beverly Crusher and an alien guest pilot a ship into the corona of a star. The alien attempts to seize control of the vessel and is intent on creating the impression that the ship blew up. Rather than doing so by venting antimatter or chucking the seats overboard, she uses the deflector shield to create the illusion that the ship suffered a warp explosion. Her plan is that after finding no debris, the Enterprise will simply leave:

JO'BRIL: I'm sending out a transient subspace signal. It will obscure the shuttle from the Enterprise sensors and they will interpret it as a warp engine breach. They will believe that you have been destroyed...All I have to do is wait here until the Enterprise is convinced you are dead, and leaves.

...

DATA: Captain, there is no indication of debris. However, the subspace signal indicates a warp engine breach.

Although the shuttle is substantially smaller than the Enterprise, it contains all of the same features (engine/construction materials/shielding).

  • 2
    This proves nothing. In the next statement, Data might be seen saying, "This looks contradictory." – Lobo Apr 27 '15 at 2:28
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    @SS-3.1415926535897932384626433 - Jo'Bril seems confident that the Enterprise, finding no debris, will assume that the ship has been totally obliterated. – Valorum Apr 27 '15 at 5:38
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    This answer ignores how fast a starship could go when colliding with the sun. Speed matters. A lot. – Ellesedil May 15 '18 at 22:30
  • Hmm. If an object approximately 450,000,000 tonnes hit the sun at relativistic speeds, it'd probably be noticeable for a short while; newscientist.com/article/… – Valorum May 15 '18 at 22:45
  • You're talking like relativistic speeds have a limit. 0.9c and 0.999999999999999999999c both significantly different effects.. – Lobo May 16 '18 at 4:40
15
+100

As explained in the other answers, the mass of a starship is too small to effect a star in any noticeable way. There might be other factors though, like Trilithium.

Trilithium was a synthetic compound that was an explosive of tremendous power. More importantly, however, it acted as an inhibitor of nuclear reactions, such as the fusion processes within the interior of stars. Even a small amount of trilithium was sufficient to halt all nuclear fusion in a star, resulting in a quantum implosion. The star would collapse under its own mass, generating a shock wave powerful enough to destroy everything in its system. If the star was of sufficient size, the core collapse could lead to a supernova.

But the Enterprise would not normally be carrying trilithium.

The warp engines does however produce trilithium resin as a waste product.

Trilithium resin was a highly toxic waste product that was produced by the engines of Starfleet vessels in the 24th century. A volatile substance, trilithium resin was sought after for use as a powerful explosive. Storing and moving it was a very delicate process and required specialized equipment.

The trilithium resin does not seem to have any effect on the fusion inside a star.

So if the Enterprise crashes into the sun we'll be fine, unless there was trilithium on board.

  • 1
    Definitely worthy of the bounty. It's certainly possible they would have a small amount on board for testing/research – Valorum May 1 '15 at 13:18
  • This answer ignores how fast a starship could go when colliding with the sun. Speed matters. A lot. More so than the mass of the ship in this instance. – Ellesedil May 15 '18 at 22:35
13

Some quick back of an envelope calculations tells me the suns core pushes out 3.86 x 1026 joules per second.
Given the amount of antimatter the enterprise carries it's capable of producing an antimatter explosion on the order or 5 x 1023 joules.
I was quite surprised to see the Enterprise carries a properly ridiculous amount of anti-matter.

From the Technical Manual, paraphrased: The Galaxy Class has thirty antimatter storage pods, each having a volume capacity of 1,000 cubic meters. now, going from the antihydrogen having the same mass as hydrogen, therefore weight, and using a standard of storing it at -257.87 at 1 atmospheric pressure... the weight of hydrogen in just one pod is 70,796 kilograms. times it by 30... 2,123,880 kilograms of antimatter. That's a ****load of Boom-Boom.

So, even though the Enterprise could produce an explosion that comes within a couple of orders of magnitude of the suns core output (for one second), consider the affected area.

The sun has a diameter of approx 1,390,425km, and hence a circumference of 4,368,022km, that's a lot of mass and area for that explosion to interact with.
Consider also the consistent forces pushing away from the sun (I can't find figures for psi of solar wind at it's source).
So, I'd say, given the facts and figures above, combined with the our current understanding of antimatter explosions and taking into account conditions at the surface of the sun, that on the balance of things, the answer has to be . . .

No one knows.

  • 5
    Yeah, I think 0.1% of increased energy would result in the Sun giving a moderately large belch or mouse fart. Astronomers might notice the event on their instruments but the other of the inhabitants of the system wouldn't notice. – Jim2B Apr 27 '15 at 14:24
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    Given the size of the sun and its energy output for a single second, there should be no detectable issue for a starship carrying normal technologies crashing and having a warp core breach on the surface of a star. – Thaddeus Howze Apr 29 '15 at 5:12
  • A starship traveling thousands of times faster than the speed light would have a lot more energy to transfer to the sun than it's fuel stores. – Ellesedil May 15 '18 at 22:36
  • I believe that ships under warp aren't actually traveling quickly (the bubble they are in is moving, no the ship), so one can't assume that a ship under warp has massive kinetic energy. – Binary Worrier May 16 '18 at 4:52
2

Nothing good. However, whether it would be a tiny, insignificant harm compared to the vast power and size of the sun, or a cataclysmic disaster, depends on a lot of factors such as the speed of the Enterprise when crashing into the sun.

Obviously an object with the mass of the Enterprise ramming an object at a speed close to that of light would cause a vast explosion as its kinetic energy was released.

Crashing into an object with a speed many times that of light might cause an even vaster explosion. However, it would take infinite energy to accelerate the Enterprise to the speed of light in a normal manner. Thus it is assumed that warp drive somehow finds a way to use less than infinite energy to accelerate a starship to speeds many times that of light. Thus using warp drive to ram a starship into a star might release much less energy than the more than infinite energy which a first glance might assume.

Figuring out how warp drive works is the first step to calculating how much energy would be released by ramming a starship at warp into a star. Good luck coming up with a warp drive theory which fits all the facts in the episodes and movies (the theory in the STTNG Technical Manual does not fit all the episode and movie evidence) and is scientifically plausible (since after all it requires scientific theories as yet undiscovered in order to work) and which enables one to do the calculations.

Thus at the present time it is unknown whether or not deliberately ramming a starship at warp speed into an enemy planet or star would be the ultimate weapon in Star Trek. I expect that such a tactic could very well have some military applications.

Note that the theoretical Alcubierre warp drive, which would work vaguely similar to Star Trek warp drive, would tend to release destructive amounts of energy and matter when the ship decelerated from faster than light speeds, thus increasing to some degree the destructive effects of ramming a target with an Alcubierre warp ship.

  • Real-world Alcubierre Drive would blow out star systems on arrival. It's been confirmed with calculation. – Lobo Apr 29 '15 at 5:14
2

This depends. How fast is it traveling when it comes into contact with the Sun?

If it were simply drifting along when it hits the Sun, the only significant impact would be the explosion of the antimatter reactor that powers the ship. This Stack Exchange post tells me that the Enterprise's power level is inconsistent, but it seems to be somewhere in the several thousand terawatt range (unless the plot demands otherwise), maintained over time. I have no idea how the entire thing exploding would affect a star, but my gut tells me that it would generate a solar flare with an oddly large neutrino concentration and not much else.

If it were going very fast when it hits the star, the amount of damage would increase. According to the Wikipedia page for the Enterprise-D, the theoretical maximum speed it could achieve is Warp 9.8. I'm not entirely certain what that is in actual speed terms, but I'm guessing that it's a few thousand times the speed of light (let's say 2,000c, based on the fact that Warp ~9.95 was stated by Gene Roddenberry to be ~6,400c and speed most likely increases exponentially as it approaches the limit of Warp 10). Again according to the Wikipedia page, the Enterprise-D has a mass of 4.5 million metric tons. No calculator I can think of is capable of calculating the kinetic energy of something traveling at 2,000c (or anything at c), so I'm calculating this for 0.5c and then increasing it linearly. (For the record, I did NOT tell you it was okay to do math like this, but it's the best I've got.)

These calculations tell me that the energy released is 2.503×10^29 J, or 5.982x10^19 tons of TNT. This is about equivalent to a trillionth of the energy required to destroy the Sun, so the star would still physically be there, but it would be difficult to model its exact effects because of how physics-breaking the question (let alone the answer) is.

If someone wants to correct my math, feel free to. I'm a high school sophomore with Wolfram Alpha, so I basically just plugged in numbers and did some math with the results, so my answers could easily be off by trillions in any direction.

-3

Nothing, because the Enterprise crashed into a planet in Star Trek III and didn't cause any problems.

  • 1
    I think the question is assuming that the sun would trigger a warp core breach and subsequent explosion, which of course didn't happen in that clip. Not that it would affect the sun, anyway. – user44330 Apr 28 '15 at 22:58
  • Crashing on a planet is different from crashing into Sun.. – Lobo Apr 29 '15 at 0:09
  • 3
    @SS-3: [citation needed] – Paul D. Waite Apr 3 '16 at 14:09
  • NCC-1701 didn't crash into a planet at any appreciable speed. – Ellesedil May 15 '18 at 22:38

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