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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, the 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")
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")
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")
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")
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")