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According to this wikia, the Dyson's sphere discovered by the Enterprise in the episode, "Relics" was large enough to support the life of 4 million earth sized planets, if you do some rough math, that's billions upon billions of people (potentially 24 quadrillion people), and 3,999,750 more planets than all the member planets of the federation, yet, they find it uninhabited, abandoned, and somehow have no clue who built it, or where they went. You could have literally fit the entire population of the federation of planets inside this sphere (if the star inside the sphere had not been unstable and emitting deadly amounts of radiation), and they would only have occupied about 0.0000375% of it's surface area. How is it possible that no one in the known galaxy knows about this megastructures history, or it's former inhabitants?

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    Yes, the whole episode smacked of a set-up for a larger story arc. But then Scotty showed up and the Dyson sphere was completely forgotten. – Mr Lister May 22 '15 at 17:07
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    Because space is big, and a Dyson sphere blocks all relevant signals that would be used to map a star system? – user16696 May 22 '15 at 17:08
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    @cde - It doesn't block gravity. This sphere would have altered the course of any asteroids passing by it. Astronomers would have noticed that. They also would have noticed the mysterious dark spot that blocked the light of the known starts behind it. – ShemSeger May 22 '15 at 17:26
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    @cde - Thermodynamics indicates all energy-harvesters must give off some waste heat, and a Dyson sphere, just by virtue of having a temperature different from the microwave background radiation, would emit a significant amount of thermal radiation with a spectrum probably close to that of the blackbody radiation for a perfectly light-absorbing body of the same size & temperature. SETI has tried to look for Dyson spheres using this fact, see this article for example. – Hypnosifl May 22 '15 at 17:38
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    I like the way the sphere is always externally illuminated by a point source when on screen... – user36551 May 22 '15 at 21:43
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Why is the Dyson Sphere uninhabited and abandoned?

This is answered in the episode itself. The star is unstable:

DATA: The sphere appears to be abandoned. Sensors show that the star is extremely unstable. It is experiencing severe bursts of radiation and matter expulsions.

PICARD: Then that would explain why they abandoned it. But if there's no one still living there, how were we brought inside?

DATA: I believe we triggered a series of automatic piloting beams designed to guide ships into the sphere.

WORF: Sir, Sensors show a large magnetic disturbance on the star's surface.

DATA: It is a solar flare, Captain. Magnitude twelve, class B.

How does no one in the known galaxy know about it?

First, it's hard to find. Since it completely obscures the star it surrounds, it's pretty hard to distinguish it from open space. It also seems to not be emitting much in the way of communications signals. Data finally reports "something on the sphere which could be a communications device" but not until after they've been in orbit for some time. It is only "emitting low intensity subspace signals." It's likely that from a distance, there's nothing to detect at all.

It also seems to be a bit out of the way. The Jenolan crashed on it and was broadcasting a distress call for seventy-five years before the Enterprise passed by.

As for why there aren't any former inhabitants telling people about it, the episode makes no indication how long the sphere has been abandoned. It could easily be a long long long time. The Iconians, for instance, were highly developed when their homeworld was destroyed 200,000 years ago. And some of their technology (i.e. the Gateway) is still functional. It's not a stretch to think that a civilization that could build a Dyson Sphere could make it last hundreds of thousands or even millions of years uninhabited. (And even a million years isn't much in the lifetime of a star.)

So I feel like there are two possibilities:

  1. The Dyson Sphere was not evacuated. The unstable star irradiated the inside of the sphere, killing quadrillions of sentient humanoids in a gruesome mega-genocide.
  2. The sphere was evacuated, but so long ago that the memories of it only live as myths and legends (at best) in the diaspora.

Neither has ever been addressed, in either canon or in any licensed material.

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    STO is licensed, by CBS so it has been addressed. – Himarm May 22 '15 at 20:13
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    The first possibility seems dubious. A species advanced enough to build the sphere would have decent star sensing technology. I mean we can detect changes in the sun at our limited tech level – user16696 May 22 '15 at 21:47
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    @cde: Even a very advanced species could've missed something that made the star "die" 100 Million years earlier than they expected. Maybe their entire civilization was focused on the sphere and all resources they every harvested where used to build the sphere (the amount of material is incredible after all). So there was nowhere to go with maybe hundreds of billions of people. – Rev1.0 May 23 '15 at 8:41
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    First, it's hard to find. Since it completely obscures the star it surrounds, it's pretty hard to distinguish it from open space. Thermodynamics does not look that way. Anyone looking at the right region of space with the right equipment would see a pretty distinctive thermal signature recognizable as a Dyson Sphere to anyone with enough theory to develop the concept. – Mason Wheeler May 23 '15 at 10:13
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    @vap78 unless of course that energy is converted into some other type of energy or matter. As the memory alpha wiki says, it could be used to make the sphere (replicator like) or it could be converted into gravity (which is what caused the plot in the episode to happen, crashing the shuttle and making the enterprise jump around unexpectedly). As stated in the episode with 80/90's understanding of the dyson sphere idea, it was not detectable. And an advance technology like that might be made to be undetectable by design. – user16696 May 23 '15 at 17:25
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In what we consider true "canon" of star trek (tv show/movies), this is not answered. In the lower tiers of cannon it was answered in the star trek online mmo. In sto this and another dyson sphere were created by a race called the solangae, we also have instances in game of dyson spheres being created by the iconians. http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere

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TL;DR : We never get an official answer, but one of the TNG follow-up novels takes a few guesses and attempts to expand on the Dyson Sphere artifact.


The only Star Trek novel to expand on the story of the Dyson Sphere is "Dyson Sphere" by Charles Pellegrino & George Zebrowski. It's TNG novel #50 and has the following summary:

Two hundred million kilometers across, with a surface area that exceeds that of a quarter-billion worlds, the Dyson sphere is one of the most astounding discoveries the Federation has ever made. Now the U.S.S. Enterprise has returned to explore the awesome mysteries of the sphere. Intrigued by what is possibly the greatest archaeological treasure of all time, Captain Jean-Luc Picard hopes to discover the origin of humanoid life throughout the galaxy -- or perhaps the ultimate secret of the Borg.

But when a neutron star approaches on a collision course with the sphere, a mission of discovery becomes a desperate race against time. The many sentient species inhabiting the sphere face extinction -- can even the Starship Enterprise save them all?

In the novel, Picard leads an expedition back to the Dyson Sphere for more in-depth study. What they find is that the sphere is far more sophisticated than they believed, and is hardly lifeless. Rather, the sphere is functionally a gigantic zoo-ship that houses countless species, some of whom are just becoming warp-capable. The Macguffin of the story is a neutron star which seems to have been fired at the sphere to purposely destroy it.

Throughout the novel, Picard and his team make guesses as to who built the sphere and why they abandoned it. The author's pet theory - the one he keeps coming back to - is that the race that built the Sphere eventually

evolved into The Borg. Furthermore, it would seem to be the modern Borg who fired the neutron star at it, perhaps wishing to erase the work of their "imperfect" ancestors. This theory is supported at the end, when a Borg cube is spotted watching events unfold, then warps away without attacking.

The novel also notes that the area around the Dyson Sphere has unusual subspace properties, properties that can only be found in one other area of space - the planet Sarpeidon, focus of the TOS episode "All Our Yesterdays". However, nothing further is made of that connection after its initial mention.

In the end, Picard and crew were able to

save a few species' arkships, but the Dyson Sphere itself narrowly avoided the neutron star and then shrunk away into subspace. The epilogue reveals that the Sphere and its inhabitants are still fine, but now smaller than an atom - apparently a self-defense mechanism of the Sphere's artificial intelligence system.

Note: It's also revealed that the star located at the center of the Dyson Sphere is not unstable as believed during the TNG episode, but rather is

being siphoned to provide enough energy for the Sphere to move. Therefore, the theory that it was abandoned because of an unstable star is proven false.

  • How authoritative are the novels? – ShemSeger May 24 '15 at 17:04
  • A licensed material such as a novel is considered loosely canonical, but only to the point that an official licensed material - such as a Technical Manual or the Official Encyclopedia - doesn't override it. Obviously, anything on screen is the highest level. However, this novel and Star Trek Online provide conflicting information, and I'm not sure which would be considered higher canon. – Omegacron May 25 '15 at 3:00
  • For a summary of the weirdness that is Star Trek canon, see this question: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/31035/20557 – Omegacron May 25 '15 at 3:03
  • Does the novelization of "Relics" provide any additional information? I remember that it had an away team (led by Riker?) beaming down to a city on the inside of the dyson sphere, but don't remember whether or not they learned anything useful there. – Thunderforge Mar 17 '18 at 1:38
  • Far more interesting than the STO stories. Thank you for this answer. – Nicholi Mar 26 '18 at 3:28

protected by Community Oct 30 '15 at 10:42

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