On many episodes of Star Trek DS9, each character has a good sense of time. Whether it's on a mission or having a drink at Quarks, they seem to know when to begin that mission or have their social gatherings. My question is, how is time measured in space when they are nowhere near Earth? They can't use Earth time in particular, since, for one thing, that time is based on the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. Anyone care to elaborate?

  • Possible duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/14130/how-do-stardates-work
    – Chenmunka
    Jun 8, 2015 at 12:51
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    I'm not asking about the stardates, I am asking about the time of day...
    – ryekayo
    Jun 8, 2015 at 12:57
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    A properly running clock runs at a steady rate whether it's on Earth, Vulcan, deep space, or anywhere else (now whether or not time is moving faster in that spot due to relativity is another issue). One Earth/standard second is the same amount of time anywhere. Why not use it? Clocks such as atomic clocks are not calibrated against the sun.
    – phantom42
    Jun 8, 2015 at 13:04
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    "A properly running clock runs at a steady rate whether it's on Earth, Vulcan, deep space, or anywhere else" Actually, that's not true. A great deal of effort and infrastructure goes into maintaining the accuracy of your timekeeping devices by delivering time via synchronisation from a "one true source". Look up time synchronisation, particularly the concept of strata. Nowadays there is no way a spacecraft can sync their clock to or have it steered by expensive atomic clocks on Earth. Fortunately, TNG has shown that UFP starships can and do. So that would appear to be that. :) Jun 8, 2015 at 18:39
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    Voyager's clock is likely to be way out by now, though. (Comment written before stardate 54973.4) Jun 8, 2015 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


Starships typically use an Earth Day (presumably a relic of Earth being the major founding partner of Starfleet/The Federation), and it's no stretch of the imagination to assume that starships do too. They also have clearly defined night shifts (Beverly Crusher is mentioned as occasionally taking a night shift to keep her command skills up, and Harry Kim is seen to take them in Voyager).

DS9 presumably also follows this, although may use the 26 hour Bajoran day, since it's actually a Bajoran space station located in the Bajoran system.

Other than that, time is generally measured in Hours/minutes/seconds and days, and the Stardate. A month is mostly forgotten about.

The general assumption (although not, as far as I'm aware, verified) is that actually all characters will refer to "Days, hours, years" etc in their own native tongue, along with measurements and similar, and the Universal Translator will translate units at the same time.

eg if an alien says he's 70 years old, he may actually be giving his age in his own language/frame of reference (200 cycles, 20,000 days on his planet, or halfway through his second metamorphosis), but the UT will know that those numbers are the equivalent of 70 earth years, and will translate it to that to give the listener a frame of reference they can understand.

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    DS9 definitely uses the Bajoran day, there are many references to people working for 26 hours straight or shops being open 26 hours per day.
    – Austin
    Jun 8, 2015 at 14:52
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    @austin - But interestingly, no references whatsoever to it being thirteen o'clock or Twenty-five hundred hours. It's as if no plotline takes place in the missing hours.
    – Valorum
    Jun 8, 2015 at 17:29
  • @Richard That's a good point. I wonder if they still work 8 hour days.
    – Austin
    Jun 8, 2015 at 20:23
  • @Austin - They appear to work either 8.3 or 6.5 hour shifts.
    – Valorum
    Jun 8, 2015 at 20:28

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