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I noticed that in Star Trek: Into Darkness when the Enterprise warps out it leaves a trail of what I can only describe as pixie dust. Previously the Enterprise left only a visual after image which could be explained as a purely optical effect like persistence of vision but now there appear to be actual particles left floating around.

I realise that it's a new special effect but is there any in universe explanation for what these glowing particles might be?

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My original title for this question was going to be: Is the Enterprise now powered by pixie dust? –  A Pale Shadow May 28 '13 at 10:14
    
FYI - this "pixie dust" isn't a new thing, has been attempted in the original Star Trek movie franchise, Star Trek: Nemesis had this effect when the USS Enterprise is seen warping. –  Jared Jun 3 '13 at 8:54

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This could well be plasma residue which is a byproduct of warp drive engines.

In previous incarnations of the star ships from the films and TV shows, it was revealed that the plasma residue needed to be purged from the ships' warp nacelles on a regular basis to avoid dangerous build-ups of the substance in the warp engines.

As the plasma residue has always been portrayed as blue matter, the same color as the 'pixie dust' seen in the latest film, I think it is safe to assume that the plasma residue is being purged simultaneously with the activation of the warp drive - resulting in those lovely trails.

Information disseminated from the official Star Trek wiki - here and here.

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