Regarding Photon Torpedo Glow

There is an unbroken chain of evidence which shows that the size of a torpedo's shield glow frequently increases rapidly after launch, to several meters in width.  

This core glow of a torpedo (i.e. the glow minus 'streamers') is, as we all know, not the torpedo itself.   The coffin-sized torpedo casings have been repeatedly shown, and there's been no apparent change in that basic size from early photonic torpedoes of the 2150's to photon torpedoes of the 2370's.

The core glow size growth it isn't based on torpedo type, either . . . it happens with all the various photon torpedoes we've seen. The increase rate itself seems to be somewhat variable (i.e. you can't say that the torpedo will be X size at X meters from the ship), but the fact that it occurs is indisputable.   Of course, my opponents insist on disputing it even after seeing this page, and thus the page has grown to include an almost absurd number of examples.  The examples below are not the only ones available by any means, but instead constitute merely a sample.

Quick Reference:
1.    "The Expanse"[ENT2]
2.    "Arena"[TOS1]
3.    "Journey to Babel"[TOS2] (TOS Stock Shot)
4.    "Elaan of Troyius"[TOS3] 
5.    "In a Mirror, Darkly, Pt. II"[ENT4] - aft
6.    "In a Mirror, Darkly, Pt. II"[ENT4] - forward
7.    Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan
8.    Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier
9.    Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country
10.  "Best of Both Worlds, Pt. II"[TNG4]
11.  "Half a Life"[TNG4]
12.  "In Theory"[TNG4]
13.  "Defiant"[DSN3]
14.  "Alliances"[VOY2]
15.  "Rise"[VOY3]
16.  "A Call to Arms"[DSN5]
17.  "Hope and Fear"[VOY4]
18.  Star Trek: Insurrection

"The Expanse"[ENT2]

From the very first episode with Starfleet photonic torpedoes being fired, we've seen the glow growth effect.  First, take a look at the first observed photonic torpedo fired from the aft launcher (visible on the hull as a rectangle on the lower part of the pod between the impulse engines:


Now, observe the use of aft torpedoes from later in the same episode:

The torpedoes have clearly expanded on their way back to the pursuing Klingon bird-of-prey.  Indeed, if you compare the two images with the first shot above, the torpedoes appear to be similar in apparent size (where "apparent size" refers to a simple 2-D viewing of the picture as if it is flat and not representative of 3-D information).  And yet, the torpedoes in the two images are at a far greater actual 3-D distance from the observation point (i.e. the camera).   

It's certainly worth noting, also, that as the torpedoes are being fired away from the observation point, then this apparent glow growth cannot be due to a 3-D perspective issue.  That is to say, they aren't increasing in apparent size simply because they're coming right for us.  If anything, the torpedoes should be getting smaller.

Assuming the two torpedoes are still between the nacelles and not a greater distance away, we can estimate their size based on the nacelle endcaps, which are about 8.4 meters tall (assuming a 225-meter NX-01).   The torpedoes are roughly equivalent in height and probably a bit wider, giving us a pretty good estimate of their size.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   7-9 meters



The Enterprise fires photon torpedoes against the Gorn.  Note how the torpedo glow is directly between the observation point and the ship, allowing a clear indication of where the torpedo is (especially when you consider that, in full motion, the torpedo is quite obviously moving straight forward, just as the phasers did moments before).    

(And no, I have no idea why there's a trailing glowy-blob behind the main red glowy-blob.  However, these consistently appeared throughout TOS, as you can see in other images below.)

Approximate Core Glow Size:   6-9 meters (assuming a saucer edge 7 meters high)


"Journey to Babel"[TOS2] et al.

Later TOS episodes used a different stock effect for the photon torpedoes, which happens to be the one that first appeared as the phasers of "Balance of Terror"[TOS1].   Once again (or, more properly, "every time we see that stock effect"), we see that the glow is far larger than the torpedo could be.  The BoT phasers, and therefore later photon torpedoes, looked like the below images.  The first image is of the first shot, the second is the third shot . . . observe the variability, but consistent growth:

It's worth noting that in "Journey to Babel" the glows seen above (taken from "Balance of Terror") were somewhat less well-defined, with the result being that it was sometimes impossible to see the separation between the white core glow and the purplish outer glow.  This would of course result in larger torpedoes, but in the interests of lower limits we'll pretend that they were only the same size as the above.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   5-9 meters  (assuming a saucer edge 7 meters high)


"Elaan of Troyius"[TOS3]

A different shot featuring a similar torpedo effect occurs in this episode, presumably another stock shot (though, if so, I'm not certain when it first appeared).   In the shot we see six torpedoes in three bursts of two being fired, with our viewing angle being more from the side than in other shots.   In the below image two torpedoes are visible, one having just emerged from the launcher and the other just a few dozen meters forward of the saucer rim.   The one fired first is at least as thick as the saucer, and the second shot is already at least half that size.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   6-9 meters  (assuming a saucer edge 7 meters high)


"In a Mirror, Darkly, Pt. II"[ENT4]

The USS Defiant (NCC-1764), having disappeared from the normal universe in "The Tholian Web"[TOS3], reappears over 100 years in the past, in a mirror universe.   Commandeered by the Terran Empire, the vessel's aft torpedoes are fired against a Tholian base:

Approximate Core Glow Size:   6-9 meters  (assuming a saucer edge 7m high, plus rough accounting for distance)


"In a Mirror, Darkly, Pt. II"[ENT4]

The Defiant fires forward torpedoes.   These do not expand too much, especially compared to the other blue-white torpedoes from TOS.  

As can be seen from the frame right before impact, the torpedo appears to be about the same size as a deck on the Vulcan cruiser.  Star Trek vessel deckheights seem to generally average around three to three-and-a-half meters, depending on the ship.

A main reason for pointing this tiny torpedo out is to note that even some of the tiniest-observed photon torpedoes still feature a glow that is much larger than the coffin-size casing.   Of course, even if we were to find a perfectly-coffin-sized core glow, that still wouldn't serve to disprove the fact that core glow growth occurs in most cases . . . it would be an exception proving the rule.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   3-4 meters  (assuming a saucer edge 7m high)


Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan

After an Enterprise phaser miss in the Mutara Nebula, Khan responds with an aft torpedo.   Note how this scene features a look at the firing from behind the launcher toward the front of the ship, again showing that the effect is not perspective-based.


Approximate Core Glow Size:   12-15 meters  (assuming a saucer edge 7m high)


Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier

The cannonball-yield torpedo fired by the Enterprise-A against the surface expands quickly into a very large blob after it is fired.  This scene features a look at the firing from behind the launcher toward the front of the ship, showing that the effect is not perspective-based.   

Approximate Core Glow Size:  15 meters (assuming a saucer edge 7 meters high)
      (It's even consistent through these effects, and the Star Trek V effects sucked!)


Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country

The Enterprise-A launches a photon torpedo against Chang's cloaked KBoP.   Though at not so great a forward-facing angle as the ST5 shot, this one also allows us to discount perspective effects as being the sole source of apparent torpedo glow growth.  

And we have this lovely behind-the-launcher shot of the final torpedo fired in the film, which of course forces the same conclusion as the similar shot from The Final Frontier.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   6-9 meters (by comparison to the ST5 shot)


"Best of Both Worlds, Pt. II"[TNG4]

The Enterprise-D, caught in a Borg tractor beam, attempts to damage the cube.   We get an excellent side view of the three torpedoes being fired, and we also get to see their direction of fire.    Note the slightly-starboard direction of the phasers in the pics below, as determined by the beam origin point.   The angle off of dead-ahead is no more than about 15 degrees.

All three of the torpedoes hit the same spot, near where the lower-aimed phaser beams strike.   

As you can see, that puts the torpedoes as being leftward of the phaser beams, which means they'd be further away from the camera than the phasers in the Enterprise-D side view shots above.   There will indeed be some perspective distortion in the ship shots, thanks to the fact that the torpedoes will be moving toward the camera somewhat.  However, this is relatively minor compared to the tremendous amount of torpedo glow growth observed . . . especially when you compare it to the phaser beams, which barely show any size increase.   In the last Enterprise pic above, the torpedo beneath the saucer has on the order of three decks worth of central glow, making the torpedo glow area about ten meters in diameter. 

Approximate Core Glow Size:   10 meters at least


"Half a Life"[TNG4]

The Enterprise-D takes part in a stellar rejuvenation experiment involving the use of photon torpedoes, which are fired in quick succession at a star.  In the shot below, note the glow of the torpedo against the hull, just in front of the ship's registry, suggesting the torpedo's location directly forward of the launch tube.

Just by comparing that torpedo's core glow to the Ten-Forward windows, you can see that the glow is at least 6-8 meters in size, and that doesn't even account for the additional distance from Ten-Forward to the ship's registry.   In the next image, we get a slightly-zoomed look at a torpedo as it appears when freshly-launched, appearing to be no more than 3 meters in size.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   6-8 meters


"In Theory"[TNG4]

The Enterprise-D, in an effort to shed some light on a dark matter nebula, fires a photon torpedo into it.   This example is most useful because it provides a very nice rear view of the torpedo launch event, once again demonstrating that it is a very real effect, and not one based on perspective change.  In the second image below, the torpedo glow area is already several meters across.


That last image shows us the torpedo at about the size we should've expected when it was fired, if glow growth were not a reality.  The third shot we see of it indicates a torpedo that is just frickin' huge, approaching 15 meters in diameter, at least.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   15 meters



Quantum torpedoes also demonstrate this effect.   Observe below the shots from the Defiant in the episode of the same name.  Launched from the small apertures just inboard of the triangular structures on the saucer, the torpedoes quickly achieve a much larger glow size:

Approximate Core Glow Size:   5 meters



Believing that any example of a small torpedo is sufficient cause to ignore torpedo glow growth, opponents often point to this episode.   A Trabe shuttle engages in a weak attempt to assassinate the Kazon leadership, which was meeting with Voyager and Trabe personnel in a building on the surface.    We can scale the event based on the window of the room, seen below.   It is somewhat less than two meters in height, as it would be viewed from the outside.

As you can see, the Trabe shuttle is about 9 meters in length, and fires a number of short weapon bursts into the room. Voyager promptly fires three torpedoes at the shuttle, driving it off.  The first of those hits looks like this a frame before impact:

The central glow of this torpedo is about three meters in size, or a third of the size of the Kazon vessel.  Given that the casket-sized casing of the torpedo is about two meters long, then the glow we see above must be almost hugging the casing.  

When fired, the torpedoes looked like this:

Compare the above with the "Rise" shots, especially the torpedoes exiting the portside tube (on our right-hand side).   It's readily apparent that the glow growth was not nearly as extensive . . . the second torpedo, seen above obscuring the bottom of Voyager's saucer, is (at ten frames since firing) about the same objective size as the Rise torp at three frames after firing.

Thus, these torpedoes have a glow that starts small and stays that way all the way to impact, a situation far different than that observed in "Rise" and other examples.  Why would there be a difference?   Well, we know these torps were of far lesser yield (weaker, even, than the ST5 torp), and we also know that they entered atmosphere.  Between the two, the most reasonable position regarding these torpedoes is that they maintained a small profile for atmospheric entry.  However, even by comparing the torpedo out of the tube versus the hit to the Trabe vessel, we can see that there was limited glow growth after firing.

(Far from disproving the Rise torpedo size or the existence of glow growth, this example reinforces both concepts.)

Approximate Core Glow Size:   ~3 meters



This, of course, is the primary example which the opponents loathe, and it was therefore the primary one argued about for awhile.  I include it in the list of supporting examples in order to point out the relevant arguments.

Now, on the "Rise" page, I chose to assume that the torpedo had been fired toward port, toward the camera, though there is no evidence for this.  Now, look at the torpedo moments after its emergence from the tube:

You can see the innermost flare of the torpedo, surrounded by a not-so-bright core glow.  Yet, nevertheless, even in this short space of time, the torpedo core glow is already much larger than just an unfired torpedo casing.   

Below, I show how one can scale the torpedo off of the deflector, based on a relatively low perspective-distortion model shot and the accepted width of the Intrepid Class ship.  (Note:  I say "relatively low" because that's the best shot I have of the physical model, which appears to have been used in "Rise".  The first image below is a perspective-free shot of the Voyager CGI model used by Foundation Imaging, shown for comparison.  Thus, my glow size estimate is rather conservative.)

And, one can easily note the rapid change involved in the following series.  The measured frame above is the same as the middle frame below:

As you can see, the torpedo glow size increases very quickly in this case.  Given the conservative size estimate of 5.7 meters for the torpedo glow in the middle frame, the latter appears to show us a torpedo 7-8 meters in diameter. 

Approximate Core Glow Size:   7-8 meters in the last shot above, 10 at least soon thereafter


"A Call to Arms"[DSN5]

Deep Space Nine, under attack by Dominion and Cardassian forces in the opening battles of the Dominion War, shows off a bit of torpedo glow growth.  The first image is of a torpedo freshly-fired from the new launch assemblies first seen in "Way of the Warrior"[DSN4].   The second image is a wider view of a torpedo being fired.  Comparing the glow from the second shot to the glow of the first with the vertical wrap-around phaser assembly (i.e. the big oval thing the torpedo comes out the middle of) as reference, the torpedo glow expands by a factor of about five after launch.  While scaling from DS9 is difficult, we can presume that if the first image shows a 1.5m torpedo glow (which is a decent ballpark estimate), the second must show a glow of 7.5 meters. 

Additional support is seen in regards to two other torpedo firings from the same battle, both of which are seen from the rear. 

With the third image just above, the three torps seen fired in the scene emerge with such velocity that it's impossible to get a perfect scaling.  But as you can see, the torpedo glow size, even at the dozens/hundreds of meters it has travelled in the one frame since launch, is around the same apparent size as the pop-out circular feature on the side of the weapons sail.   With the fourth contrast-enhanced image, a torpedo is visible against the fireball beyond, being fired against the Galor in the upper right.  Again, that torpedo is around the same apparent size as the circular feature, in keeping with the 7.5 meter figure.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   7.5 meters


"Hope and Fear"[VOY4]

Voyager, while travelling through slipstream, fires on a fake Federation starship.   Below, I have a vidcap of the event, giving a clear view of torpedo core glow growth (especially in the latter shots, where we're almost looking up toward Voyager.

  H&Ftorps.avi (240k DivX)

Further, the pic below demonstrates the size increase of torpedoes fired from Voyager:

Note, if you will, that the second torpedo's illumination of the hull can be observed, approximately placing it directly under the port phaser strip's forward edge. By eyeball estimate compared to Voyager's forward docking port, the torpedo's main spherical glow is, at this point, approximately 10 meters wide. Even if we compare to the entire vertical surface of the saucer rim, the torpedo width is greater than it is by a factor of three, giving an absolute (but ridiculous) minimum of six meters. The torpedo thus appears significantly broader than it would've been when exiting the tube. Further, it is also significantly broader than it was mere moments beforehand, when a mere 60-70 meters further away:

Of course, various debates have shown me that there are many people (especially my opponents, curiously enough) who are incapable of grasping issues of spatial orientation without a lot of help.  Thus, in a prior debate, I created the following image regarding the rear-most torpedo seen in the pics above.

I have, in the above, provided a general gist of how one would determine the location of the second torpedo. Using a side-view of the Intrepid class as found at Ex Astris Scientia, I have projected various 3-D elements into a simpler 2-D form.

The vertical bars represent the torpedo's glow on the hull, sized roughly to be in keeping with the apparent (i.e. 2-D) size of the torpedo in the picture. It is dropped down from the hull location to allow for the next step.

The diagonal bars are drawn from the areas of the ship's hull which are obscured by the torpedo, and follow the rough angle of the ship as we are observing it.

The lighter area (where I've circled) is about where the torpedo is, give or take a bit (i.e. don't go trying to claim anything too specific off of the "general gist" picture.)

Now, in a 2-D sense (i.e. just measuring the pixels), the torpedo grows by a factor of about two in that shot. As we can see from my diagram, it could not have travelled more than a quarter the length of the ship to accomplish this, or even close to a quarter.

For the 2-D growth to be simply 3-D perspective effect, the rest of the ship would have to similarly distort by a factor of two over a similar length of the ship . . . we don't see that. What we do see is that the entire length of the starship is not perspective-distorted by that amount . . . the forward areas are at best 150% of the size of the rear, not 200%.

Hence, glow growth.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   7-10 meters


Star Trek:  Insurrection

Even the smallish torpedoes of Insurrection demonstrate this growth.   Below, you can see the aft torpedo fired from an unspecified location. (Graham Kennedy of DITL thinks it might've been fired from the aft launcher near the keel of the ship, but there appears to be a torpedo-tube-sized aperture on the engineering hull spine, near the shuttlebay . . .but that's neither here nor there.)

Even if we try to forget that the torpedo was launched aftward and is thus further away than the bridge terraces, just comparing its core glow directly to those terraces yields a minimum size of about two decks, or 4-5 meters.  The innermost flare alone is on the order of 2-3 meters in size.   And again, I reiterate that those sizes do not even begin to account for the distance of the torpedo, which at this point should be a kilometer or two away from the camera.

Below, we have another view of just how much growth is occurring.   The torpedo has just been fired, and is thus far closer to the camera.  You can even see glow against the trails the nacelles are leaving.  The core glow would be an absolute barest-minimum of five meters in diameter in the image if we ignore the third dimension, but since it is somewhat difficult to find anything good to scale with in this image, I can't be more exact.

Approximate Core Glow Size:   5-7 meters

As shown, there are numerous examples of photon torpedo shield glow size increase all across the board, with torpedoes ranging from 3 to at least 15 meters in size.  The most important example for my purposes, "Rise", shows a torpedo that is already almost six meters in size after barely having left the torpedo tube, and it only gets bigger.    (It's also interesting to note that the photon torpedoes of Nemesis, the movie in which ships have hull-hugging conformal shields, do not exhibit similar glow characteristics, showing neither growth nor streamers.)

Thus, both the thesis of glow growth and my argument on the "Rise" page have merit.   The opposing view, created purely in the hopes of disputing the "Rise" yield values, does not.

Special thanks to The Model Builder's Reference Vault for the Voyager CGI image, and to Flare poster "blssdwlf" for providing way more Star Trek V caps than anyone could ever want.  And, of course, special thanks to Ex Astris Scientia for the Voyager model shot and side-view.

And, of course, I couldn't have done it without Vanderveer Effects, ILM, Image G, Foundation Imaging, Eden FX, et al.