Milky Way (Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma Quadrants)
Star Trek Star Charts is a guide to the Star Trek universe – the stars and planets of the United Federation of Planets and the other powers of the Milky Way Galaxy. It includes background information on the classification systems used for identifying stars and planets.
From the book jacket:
“… all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”
When Humans launched the first ship designed for long-range missions into the deep waters of interstellar space, the Vulcan High Command provided their star charts for the Enterprise NX-01. But Jonathan Archer was not content with relying on the known. Although he used the Vulcan charts, he also added to them, and greatly expanded Earth Starfleet’s knowledge of the galaxy. Every generation of starship captain that followed has built on Archer’s first steps.
The Milky Way
We learn from the TNG Miniseries: The Q Continuum, that in the Star Trek Universe, the Milky Way is approximately thirteen billion years old and 100,000 light-years across, 15,000 light-years deep at the galactic core and contains approximately 500,000 stars which orbit the galactic core over a period of around 220 million years. Somewhat unusually the Galaxy is enveloped in an energy field known as the galactic barrier. A similar field, the Great Barrier encloses much of the Galactic Core. Both fields were created by the to protect the Galaxy from a gang of powerful malicious beings.
The most widely used cartographic system (the science and practice of making maps and projections of space) is based on older Earth and Vulcan systems, and perhaps ones even older than those. It divides the galaxy into quadrants and sectors, and also uses coordinates to describe specific points in space.
The Star Trek galaxy is divided into four quadrants:
- Alpha Quadrant
- Beta Quadrant
- Gamma Quadrant
- Delta Quadrant
The United Federation of Planets (UFP) is primarily located in the Alpha Quadrant with a few distant worlds falling just outside into the Beta quadrant. Earth currently exists in the Alpha quadrant. Below is a description of some of the more important planets or areas of space for each quadrant.
This area of space contains most of the Federation member planets, including Earth. Its boundary in the region around the Federation is defined by a meridian passing through the galactic core (central region of the Milky Way Galaxy) and at least near the Sol System (or star system). In its entirety, the Federation spans over 8,000 light years in both the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.
Deep Space Nine and Bajor existed in this quadrant along with Vulcan. The Klingon Empire also occupies a few systems in this quadrant, but its largest sphere of influence is the Beta Quadrant. Some smaller powers in the include the Orions, the Tholian Assembly, the Breen Confederacy, the Gorn Hegemony, the Tzenkethi, and the Ferengi Alliance. One of the largest political entities is the Cardassian Union.
By the time Kirk and crew set her sails, only about 25% of the quadrant had been sufficiently explored, which means that most of this region remains unexplored!
Precious little is known about the Beta Quadrant, canon or otherwise. We do know that this area of space remains mostly unexplored and is the primary home to the Klingon and Romulan Star Empire and part of the Gorn Hegemony.
According to scenic artist Geoffrey Mandel’s book, Star Trek: Star Charts, the Beta Quadrant was also home to the, Andorians, Orions, Bolians, Son’a, Risians, Organians, Coridan, Axanar, Nausicaans, Suliban and a litany of Star Trek’s more recognizable alien species.
Virtually unexplored, the Delta quadrant is so far from the Federation’s that no Starships can travel out that far. Its closest point to Earth is located approximately 30,000 light years away. An Intrepid-class starship would take 30 years to reach the edges of the quadrant at its maximum warp velocity. So, due to the immense distance between the Alpha and Delta Quadrant, the Federation knew very little about this region of space.
Brief encounters with this quadrant have occurred due to alien intervention. In 2371, the Federation’s starship Voyager was catapulted to the quadrant by the Caretaker, a representative of the Nacene. After becoming stranded, Voyager spent seven years travelling through the Delta Quadrant, before returning to the Alpha Quadrant, through a Borg trans-warp network in 2377. When Voyager returned to Earth a year later, the Federation’s knowledge of the quadrant was further expanded considerably (VOY: “Endgame”).
The major power in the Delta Quadrant, as previously alluded to, was the Borg Collective.
Another area of the Milky Way galaxy which remains for the most part unexplored. Its closest point to Earth is located approximately 30,000 light years away. However, the discovery of the stable artificial wormhole in Bajoran space which links the Alpha to the Gamma quadrant has meant that exploration of this part of the galaxy is now possible (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
The Vulcans were at the forefront of the exploration of the Quadrant, beginning only months after the wormhole was discovered by Benjamin Sisko and Jadzia Dax in 2369 (DS9: “A Man Alone”, “Move Along Home”, “Vortex”). The Klingons also joined in exploring the Quadrant (DS9: “Q-Less”).
The Gamma Quadrant is home to the Dominion, an interstellar empire; which consisted of the Changelings (aka the Founders), Vorta, Jem’Hadar and T-Rogoran.