Fragments of Suliban warp trails

A warp trail was the trail of residual subspace distortion in space left behind by the warp drive of a starship. The trail could be tracked with sensors. (DS9: "The Maquis, Part II") The ion trails left behind by a ship traveling at warp were also sometimes referred to as warp trails. (VOY: "Critical Care")

If the warp signature of a ship was suppressed by remodulating its plasma injectors, the ship did not leave behind a warp trail. (VOY: "Warlord") A warp trail could also be masked with a randomized EM field. (VOY: "Dreadnought") A nebula could also mask warp trails. (VOY: "Dark Frontier") To find and track a warp trail left behind by a tricyclic plasma drive required information on the decay rate of the plasma it used. Even when traveling at impulse the ship left behind a warp trail. (ENT: "Broken Bow") The warp drives used by Kazon-Nistrim and Rigelians ended their warp trail after the ships dropped out of warp. (VOY: "Maneuvers"; ENT: "Affliction")

The ion trail left behind by a ship could be in time dispersed by stellar winds. (ENT: "Anomaly") When an ion trail was left behind by a ship at warp, subspace distortions could be detected in its wake. (VOY: "Cathexis") The radiation signature from the ions could be used to determine the type of craft and propulsion system that left it behind. (VOY: "Initiations"; TNG: "Parallels") By remodulating shield harmonics, the ion trail could be masked. (VOY: "The Raven") It could also be dissipated with a magneton pulse. (DS9: "To the Death")

Ion trails were also left behind by other propulsion systems such as advanced ion propulsion. (TOS: "Spock's Brain") Ion trails were left behind by starships and shuttles using impulse engines. It could be determined from the distribution of the ions what maneuvers the ship had used. (TNG: "Relics", "Parallels") Federation escape pods landing on a planet also left behind an ion trail. Even after landing the propulsion system of the pod kept leaving behind the dispersion trail with a stronger concentration gradient near the pod. (TNG: "Legacy")


In 2151, Enterprise NX-01 followed a Suliban vessel into the atmosphere of a gas giant by tracking its warp trail. Enterprise did not originally have the sensor acuity to identify a warp trail, but this changed when Sub-Commander T'Pol modified the sensors to isolate the plasma decay rate of the Suliban ship. (ENT: "Broken Bow")

An ion trail left by an Osaarian vessel

In August of 2151, Enterprise was not able to follow the Earth Cargo Service freighter ECS Fortunate as their long-range sensors were knocked out by the Fortunate's plasma cannon and Enterprise thus could not detect any warp trail. (ENT: "Fortunate Son")

In 2152, Travis Mayweather successfully located a Kreetassan ship by scanning for their warp trail. (ENT: "Vox Sola")

In 2153, Enterprise tracked the ion trail of an Osaarian vessel that had hidden inside a cloaking field to avoid detection. (ENT: "Anomaly")

In 2154, the crew of Enterprise pursued Doctor Arik Soong and his Augments into Klingon territory by tracking their warp trail. Once Soong discovered that Enterprise was using the Bird-of-Prey's warp trail to track them, he was able to successfully mask their warp trail. (ENT: "The Augments")

In 2356, Magnus and Erin Hansen attempted to mask their warp trail in a nebula when they and their daughter, Annika, attempted to escape from the Borg aboard the USS Raven. (VOY: "Dark Frontier")

In 2370, Chief Miles O'Brien was able to retrace a Maquis warp trail to find Gul Dukat. (DS9: "The Maquis, Part II")

In 2372, the crew of the USS Voyager discovered the ion trail of a Kazon carrier vessel commanded by Razik which had destroy Chakotay's shuttlecraft. (VOY: "Initiations")

Soon after, a warp trail was discovered leading away from a moon the Voyager crew had been surveying for polyferranide, which lead them to a seemingly lifeless planet with an unusual energy source. (VOY: "Tattoo")

After a raid on Voyager by the Kazon-Nistrim in which a transporter module was stolen, Seska deliberately left a warp trail behind for Captain Janeway to follow. (VOY: "Maneuvers")

In the same year, Voyager encountered the Cardassian Dreadnought missile in the Delta Quadrant. It contained a sophisticated array of computer technology as well as its own high-powered warp drive. To avoid detection, it was also capable of masking its own warp trail. (VOY: "Dreadnought")

A group of rogue Jem'Hadar used a magneton pulse to dissipate their ion trail after attacking Deep Space 9. (DS9: "To the Death")

When the Nistrim seized Voyager at the end of 2372, Seska ordered Maje Culluh's askara to scan for the warp trail of a missing shuttlecraft even if they found its wreckage. (VOY: "Basics, Part I")

In 2373, Tieran, in the body of Kes, stole a Voyager shuttlecraft and remodulated the plasma injectors to suppress its warp signature. (VOY: "Warlord")

Benjamin Sisko told Worf to look for an ion trail generated by a runabout Kira Nerys had taken to interview several Cardassians suspected of being behind the killings of a number of former members of the Shakaar resistance cell. (DS9: "The Darkness and the Light")

In 2377, Janeway ordered her senior staff to scan for the ion trail of Gar's ship after the Dralian stole The Doctor's program. (VOY: "Critical Care")

Later that year, she again gave the order to scan for ion trails after Voyager's deuterium was stolen in the Void. (VOY: "The Void")

In 2378, The Doctor masked the Delta Flyer's ion trail after departing with Voyager's warp core to deliver it to a pair of kidnappers. (VOY: "Renaissance Man")

See also

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