An overview of the Star Trek galaxy, how the real Milky Way galaxy affects what it looks like, and the kind of space Voyager ought to be encountering on its long journey home.



Who's Where In The Star Trek Galaxy

Alpha Quadrant Beta Quadrant Gamma Quadrant Delta Quadrant

[Galaxy Map]

Alpha Quadrant
Home to most of the Federation, and the Cardassian Union

Beta Quadrant
Home to part of the Federation, the Romulan Star Empire, and the Klingon Empire

Gamma Quadrant
Home to the Dominion

Delta Quadrant
Home to the Kazon, the Vidiians, the Borg, the Krenim, the Hirogen, the Malon, and a horde of others

Explanation of map layout

Galactic Facts

The galaxy in which we live, and in which the Star Trek universe is set, is just one of many. But apart from the odd extragalactic excursion at the instigation of aliens or all-powerful beings, Starfleet has generally been content to stay within its boundaries. That's not altogether surprising; the neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy, which the original Enterprise set course for at one time - in By Any Other Name - is a mere 2,200,000 light years away. That's over thirty times the length of Voyager's journey home, and all without the benefit of being able to stop off at a passing star system for supplies. And besides, they've barely scratched the surface of our own galaxy.

A little "real world" astronomy: our galaxy has a flat spiral disk - the Milky Way - which is approximately 100,000 light years in diameter, and some 1,000-2,000 light years thick, containing approximately 100,000 million stars. The spiral arms wind out from a central nucleus, about 20,000 light years across, which contains mostly older stars, packed closely together, and - theoretically - surrounding a vast black hole. Sounds like a place to avoid, doesn't it?

The spiral arms mostly consist of younger stars, slowly orbiting the nucleus. Our solar system is situated on the inner edge of one of the spiral arms, about 32,000 light years from the centre, and it takes it about 225 million years to complete a circuit of the galaxy. To some extent it is unusual, in that it has a single star - binaries and multiples are much more common - but in all other ways it is a rather ordinary yellow dwarf. It is currently about 5,000 million years old, and is about halfway through its life span.

It seems probable that if life has evolved elsewhere, it will have done so under similar conditions to those existing in the solar system. Those conditions are most likely to occur elsewhere in the spiral arms, rather than amongst the colder, crowded red giants in the nucleus. That being so, Voyager's best route home might not be the obvious straight line - which would both take it through the outer part of the nucleus and take it through the more sparsely populated regions between the spirals. For a ship in constant need of supplies, great distances between stars might expose it to the danger that it would not be able to restock frequently enough, and that supplies might run out. And, as was seen in Night, where the crew encountered a starless region that might have been just such an expanse between the spiral arms, there's the additional danger that the crew will go stir crazy and the Captain withdraw to reflect unfavourably on her past decisions.

On the other hand, if Voyager were to follow the spiral path of the Milky Way, plotting a more curved course, the crew could be reasonably sure of encountering a star every few days on average - and the chances are that enough of those would have evolved sufficiently to have produced life, or some of the raw resources that they need. The downside, of course, is that it would inevitably extend the journey home. But it may well be the necessary course corrections along the spiral arm which makes Voyager's stated distance from home fluctuate from episode to episode - well, it's either that or inconsistent continuity! And it's entirely possible that Seven of Nine's Borg astronomical knowledge might have been able to shave 5,000 light years off a course of this type, whereas it's difficult to see how she might have done it if they were headed for home in a completely straight line...

Galactic Fiction

Mapping a three dimensional galaxy in two dimensions is not an easy task, although as far as I'm concerned it's a lot simpler than trying to display it in three dimensions! Fortunately, the galaxy's spiral disk is relatively flat - only 1,000-2,000 light years thick - so I've happily ignored that pesky third dimension in everything but allowing for the fact that not all planets and their stars are going to be at the same depth above or below the galactic plane (Earth, for instance, is about 50 light years above it). So, if you get out your ruler and measure the 70,000 light years from Bajor to Idran in the Gamma Quadrant, and then measure the 70,000 light years from Bajor to Ocampa in the Delta Quadrant, you'll probably find that the measurements don't come out quite the same. That's right; it gives me the perfect excuse to be inaccurate!

The maps shown in this section are necessarily less than accurate - even if you leave aside the inescapable fact that, with the exception of Earth and one other star, everything shown here is a work of fiction anyway. It's simply not possible to create an image even vaguely approaching the right scale; or not one of a size that anybody would be willing to download!

What I've tried to do is to show the geography of the Star Trek galaxy from a Voyager perspective. From that point of view the territory occupied by the United Federation of Planets ought to be a tiny little speck a long way off, and to that end I've adjusted the positioning of a few planets and territories to make the distances involved seem more plausible. When viewed from an Alpha Quadrant perspective the Federation has a tendency to spread a lot further than it ought to; at least until such time as the Warp 10 barrier is broken on a routine basis. I've provided an explanation and map comparison for those who are interested in why I've not always followed the placement of other Star Trek maps.