According to my limited understanding of the Theory of Relativity and Time Dilation, objects that are further away age at a different "speed" than here on earth. A simple example are the astronauts on the ISS where they "age" at a slightly slow speed than their counterparts on earth.

With many of its ships far away from Earth (DS9 and Voyager especially), does the Star Trek universe take into effect this theory?

  • the ships shielding tends to cancel out most space distortions. the warp feild generated around a ship similarly protects the ship from experiencing any relativity problems as well.
    – Himarm
    May 14, 2015 at 19:41
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    It isn't a matter of "far away", it is a matter of relative speeds. If someone is very far away, but moving through space similarly to you (I'll leave the specifics to the physicists), you will experience time similarly; however, if someone is speeding by you quite quickly, even if quite close, their perception of time will be slow relative to yours.
    – Politank-Z
    May 14, 2015 at 19:42
  • @Himarm do you have a source for this? Also not in all cases were the shields fully operational at all times. May 14, 2015 at 19:42
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    @Himarm - i think you mean "warp bubble", not shields.
    – Valorum
    May 14, 2015 at 19:44
  • @Richard warp bubble for ftl, but the shields/deflectors have some measure of control over the forces of gravity from space objects effecting the ship itself. i think.
    – Himarm
    May 14, 2015 at 19:47

2 Answers 2


I think you've misunderstood the theory slightly. It's not the distance from one point to another that creates the difference in the passage of time, it's the difference in speed relative to each other. Simply put, an object traveling close to the speed of light will age more slowly than an object at rest.

The short answer is yes, this is addressed in the Star Trek universe, albeit tangentially. According to the Star Trek TNG: Technical Manual, starfleet vessels are heavily discouraged from traveling at high sublight speeds due to time dilation effects. The "Warp bubble" negates this from happening and means that ships can safely travel at speeds above the speed of light without time dilation occurring:

Guidance of the USS Enterprise at higher sublight velocities couples the impulse engines with those systems already mentioned. External sensor readings, distorted by higher relativistic speeds, necessitate adjustment by the guidance and navigation (G&N) subprocessors in order to accurately compute ship location and provide proper control inputs to the impulse engines. Extended travel at high sublight speed is not a preferred mode of travel for Federation vessels, due to the undesired time-dilation effects, but may be required occasionally if warp systems are unavailable.


Today, such time differences can interfere with the requirement for close synchronization with Starfleet Command as well as overall Federation timekeeping schemes. Any extended flight at high relativistic speeds can place mission objectives in jeopardy. At times when warp propulsion is not available, impulse flight may be unavoidable, but will require lengthy recalibration of onboard computer clock systems even if contact is maintained with Starfleet navigation beacons. It is for this reason that normal impulse operations are limited to a velocity of 0.25c.

  • "We've broken the time barrier!" --helmsman whose name I've forgotten, The Cage
    – Politank-Z
    May 14, 2015 at 19:44
  • Ah... the 'warp bubble' is their countering to time dilation. But what about impulse power/speeds? Also DS-9 was fairly stationary... did they and other DS stations experience time differently than earth? May 14, 2015 at 19:46
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    @KronoS - No. Unless the Bajor system itself was traveling at insane speeds, there would be no appreciable time-dilation effect between Earth and DS9
    – Valorum
    May 14, 2015 at 19:53
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    @KronoS In theory, differences in the speeds that various bodies travel through the galaxy should cause (possibly minute) differences between the experience of time in different systems. In practice, I'm reasonably sure this hasn't been addressed on screen, and I'm not familiar with any references to it in extended cannon. The only reference to time dilation having been an issue in any way that I can recall is in a novel wherein due to a warp drive failure, Janice Rand traveled a fair distance at high sublight speed. As a result, she was biologically 16 while old enough to enlist in Starfleet.
    – Politank-Z
    May 14, 2015 at 19:54
  • Warp bubble for time dilation, just as the Heisenberg Compensator so Scotty can beam them down to the surface! I know this ship like the back of me hand! - said Scotty just before running into the overhead bulkhead '-) May 14, 2015 at 22:38

Time Dilation was never brought up specifically in any episode of the series. Time dilation affects all moving objects regardless of speed but at typical speeds like orbital velocity or a car for example they're so inconsequential they're measured in nanoseconds. Satellites have two clocks on board to adjust for the effect of time dilation to keep accurate records. But in real physics the effects of time dilation are negligible til speeds pushing way near lightspeed. At 1 percent the speed of light the effects of time dilation are acting but minute. To an outward observer of 1 minute in their time is equivalent to 59.997 seconds, losing one-thousandth of a second. Even at full impulse the effect merely shaves 2 seconds for every outward observer minute. Starships limit safe impulse speeds to .25 lightspeed, thou they can exceed it if need be. Ships don't spend the majority of their time at full impulse. They're either at warp, orbiting a planet or traveling at fraction of impulse velocity.

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