So I couldn't think of a better place to put this gigantic explosion of pure nerdery. You guys get it, therefore.
Executive summary of this post: STO's stellar cartography is actually a really good reflection of how local space actually looks, with a few inexplicable blunders, and it's obvious the devs did their homework. Score.
Longer version: This post comes out of my delving into stellar cartography and mapping out parts of the Trek universe to match up with the real universe. In 2002 a book called Star Trek: Star Charts did pretty well the same thing. What is evident is that STO's developers seem to have used Star Charts as their reference when building sector space, and in so doing they actually did a pretty good job matching up the general outlay of STO to the observable universe.
Each sector block contains multiple sectors. If we assume each of these represents 20-by-20-light-year square, then STO has actually pegged exactly the locations of several Trek stars with known associations to real stars. These are, in general, placed where they ought to be. And while most stars in sector space are just made up, there's no reason not to do that because in any given sector most stars are just random pickings out of the Henry Draper catalogue, ie. often not all that noteworthy.
The STO forum tends to be a hotbed of negativity, so even though I have some nitpicks to go through, I actually think the devs did a great job mapping out sector space on a macro level.
Now for some observations! A green asterisk means STO mostly got it right; a yellow one means it's close but off in some way; and a red one means a feature makes no sense.
Some general observations:
* All of the empires in STO are where Star Trek: Star Charts says they are, save for the Tholians, who should be southwest a long way, showing up in Romulan space. But since they also show up in Eta Eridani, it makes a bit more sense.
* Almost all planets known to be associated with a real star, like Vulcan, Andoria, Risa, Rator and the worlds in Eta Eridani, are located in the game roughly where that star would be located in reality. The game grid doesn't have a lot of weird fudges or out-of-place stars thrown in like the show does - no flying 800 light-years to Rigel en route to nearby Qo'noS and doing it all in four days here.
* The distances flagged on various planets and stars are often nonsensical and seem to suggest sector blocks are much smaller than they are. These numbers are best ignored because the actual arrangement of each sector strongly correlates to a 20-by-20 grid.
Sirius Sector Block:
* Procyon is where it should be, but it is depicted as a red star. It's actually a binary consisting of a yellow-white star and a white dwarf.
* Vulcan is where 40 Eridani should be and its main star is properly depicted as orange. Score, STO!
* Pollux is in about the right place but is inexplicably depicted as a pink star. There's no such thing. It should be red.
* That's not where Vega is. Vega would be two sectors west from the Alpha Centauri Sector Block.
* The Delta Volanis Cluster is utterly inexplicable. First off, there's a constellation called Volans, the Flying Fish, but it's not over there. The real star Delta Volantis is almost 700 light years from Earth. And the cluster in-game actually covers space inhabited by several core worlds of the Federation. Yet this region is billed as unexplored space - right next to Earth. Why is it there?
* I will give a pass to this almost everywhere else, but here in the core of the Federation, why are most of the stars made up? Sirius isn't bad about this, but why have the non-canonical Beytan, Kei, Pellme, Bhea and Pico systems in the Vulcan sector block when you could have Sirius, Denebola, Axanar, Archer IV and Akaali? Why does the Orion Sector have Reytan, Lackey, Kinjer and Una when its RL equivalent includes stars matched up with Orion, Coridan, Deneva and the Rigel Colonies? Risa I can forgive since it has fewer important stars, but even then, no reason not to use the nearby real sextuple star Castor or the Star Charts neighbourhood stars of Mazar and the Menk/Valakian homeworld. This sector ought to be a grand tour through the heart of the UFP, with stops at systems we recognize, not milk runs at completely random systems.
Regulus Sector Block:
* These are mostly made-up stars though the position of Celes agrees with Star Charts. So does the location of the Briar Patch.
* Regulus is basically where it should be, but it's depicted as a red star. It is actually a quadruple star system with its main component being blue-white.
Eta Eridani Sector Block:
* Eta Eridani actually is in the region - and in fact the game includes the Azha system. Azha is in fact the Arabic name for Eta Eridani. Nice! Both it and Aldebaran are close enough to their real neighbourhoods for government work. Alhena and Cursa are also the proper colour. STO actually did a great job rolling in real neighbourhood stars here.
* Alhena is actually a bit further from Earth than Cursa - it would appear a couple sector blocks south of here.
Omega Leonis Sector Block:
* Mostly good. The star in question is just inside this sector block. Qo'noS is also exactly where Star Charts puts it.
Pi Canis Sector Block:
* The star being mentioned is actually Pi Canis Majoris, which Star Charts matches up with Korvat. STO put it in exactly the right place. However, in-game Korvat is a red star. The real Pi Canis Majoris is a pale yellow giant.
* Star Charts conflates Xarantine with Zeta Leporis. In-game, it is in exactly the right place, but represented by an asteroid belt. This actually does not work out badly because the real Zeta Leporis is a very young white star with a significant debris disk.
Tau Dewa Sector Block:
* The good: Almost all of these stars are canon.
* The bad: "Tau Dewa Sector Block." Dewa is the name of a planet. Calling it "Tau Dewa" means there must be a constellation called Dewa and multiple stars with names like Alpha Dewa, Beta Dewa, Delta Dewa, Gamma Dewa, et cetera. As Dewa isn't, as far as I know, even a Latin word, and there's only one Dewa system, this is clearly absurd, and this sector actually lies closer to the constellations Puppis and Caelum (Japori matches up well to Beta Caeli). Suggested better names? Rho Puppis Sector Block or Beta Caeli Sector Block. Beta Columbae Sector Block would also fit.
* Acamar is a real star but it should be one sector east, near New Romulus. It's properly depicted as a binary but the real Acamar consists of two A-type stars. That means they're young and white.
* Nimbus: Star Charts puts this in a really stupid place on the north end of Romulan space. Props for ignoring that and putting it close to the tri-border region.
* Japori: BOOYAH! Perfectly placed to be Beta Caeli, as Star Charts pegs it, and it's the right colour: Yellow. Score!
* Archer: Star Charts placed this one wrong. ENT tells us that Archer IV is in fact 61 Ursae Majoris - in the Sirius Sector Block.
Psi Velorum Sector Block:
* Psi Velorum is in fact a real star in this area.
* Rator: Star Charts puts this pretty much right where Epsilon Reticuli is in real life. STO wonderfully gets the reddish colour of Epsilon Reticuli's main star right. My only quibble is that it's a binary with a small white companion and should be a smidge west, but otherwise, nice catch.
Alpha Centauri Sector Block:
* This sector grinds my gears because it's right next to Earth and should be part of the core of the Federation, but even in the blue sectors, almost every planet sounds like a Romulan colony. What gives?
* Alpha Centauri/Rigil Kentaurus is actually, in the real world, not far from where the Eirhess System is. Why just put a Romulan-sounding system there? There's no reason that system cannot be moved west and called the Alpha Centauri system. That location should represent a core Federation world, and Alpha Centauri is a major, important Human colony.
* The Teneebia sector includes a number of notable worlds, including Delta Pavonis, which Star Charts pegs as Benzar; Epsilon Indi, identified as Draylax, home to real exoplanets in the actual world; and Gliese 581, which not only has real exoplants, but POTENTIALLY HABITABLE ones. Why no signs of them beyond Asylum on Benzar doff missions?
* Star Charts also puts Tomed, site of the Tomed Incident, in this sector block. Why not use it in STO instead of randomly-named nothing worlds? Surely it could sub in easily for, say, the Rhi system.
Iota Pavonis Sector Block:
* Iota Pavonis really is in this sector of space. Score.
* Romulus is about where Star Charts says it is. However, why's Hobus almost 15 light years away? And since it is, should the supernova not have annihilated half the sector block on its way to Romulus?
* What, no Romii?
* Delta Corvi: This real star is actually known by its formal name of Algorab. It is near here, but it should be one sector to the east, in non-mapped space. The real Delta Corvi is a white star, and STO basically depicted that correctly.
Cardassian space in general:
* Galactically speaking, there should be a vertical row of three UFP sectors west of Earth before you get to the Cardassian ones. Suggested names? Tau Ceti Sector Block. North to south, they should be roughly as follows.
- TOP: Nova Sector. This could hold the following planets as identified by Star Charts and actual star mapping: Kaferia (Tau Ceti, which appears to have habitable planets in the real world), Sigma Draconis/the Eymorg homeworld, Deneb Kaitos, Cor Caroli and Terra Nova.
- MIDDLE: Draylon Sector. Star Charts says this region could hold Draylon/the new Skrreean homeworld, the Arachnid Nebula and Mab-Bu. It also holds 47 Ursae Majoris, a real star with real planets.
- BOTTOM: Capella Sector. This is where you'll find a bunch of stars actually brought up in Star Trek, namely Capella and Betazed. You may also find Gamma Ceti and Starbase (like a) G-6.
Beta Ursae Sector Block:
* Beta Ursae Majoris, or Merak as it's called, actually is in this area. Good job!
* Star Charts pegs this as home to the Trill homeworld. STO represents this by your being able to do "Asylum on Trill" doff missions here, but it's a shame we don't get to visit Trillius Prime.
Alpha Trianguli Sector Block:
* Once again, STO nails a star in the neighbourhood: Alpha Trianguli is in fact right there.
* Dubhe is actually a real star! It's misplaced here; the star, which is the proper name for Alpha Ursae Majoris, is in the real world about where the Betreka Nebula would be in STO. The game correctly colours the primary red, though Dubhe is actually a four-star system.
* Star Charts pegs a little of the eastern part of this region as the Demilitarized Zone and home to several notable star systems, among them Setlik, Chin'toka, Dorvan and Trelka. Other than Asylum on Betazed doff missions, where are they? I'd have loved to see them.
Zeta Andromedae Sector Block:
* STO actually gets the sector block name wrong here. If you go by the 20x20 sector motif that the rest of the map goes by, Zeta Andromedae isn't around here. It's about 20 light years southwest. Suggested rename? Call it the Xi Cephei Sector Block.
Potential for expansion? There's a ton. Here are some thoughts on the matter.
- The aforementioned Tau Ceti Sector Block I listed above.
- A big block of the Federation core northwest of Earth is currently unrepresented. You could easily do a square that opens east from its south block into Alpha Centauri and from its upper block into Iota Pavonis, and possibly south into hypothetical!Tau Ceti. You could call it Gamma Serpentis Sector Block or Delta Sculptoris Sector Block. Sectors would go like this.
- BOTTOM RIGHT: Tellar Sector. In this sector: Tellar/61 Cygni, Arcturus, Fomalhaut and Altair. Star Charts also puts Memory Alpha here.
- TOP RIGHT: Sauria Sector. This region of space holds the Saurian homeworld and Deneb Algiedi as well as a couple of real stars with actual planets, Gliese 785 and GJ 1214.
- TOP LEFT: Omega Sagitta Sector. Star Charts puts Omega Sagitta, home of the Straleb and Atlec, here, which means we can have a mission where your captain kicks the crap out of the Outrageous Okona. Star Charts also puts Argus's planet here. It also holds the real stars Rasalhague, Alshain, Alphecca and Gemma.
- BOTTOM LEFT: Vega Sector. This is where Vega actually IS. Star Charts actually places a load of interesting stars here. They include AR-558 and Xendi Sabu. Also here is the Denobulan homeworld, Denobula Triaxa; a hook to make Denobulans playable or open up Asylum on Denobula Triaxa assignments for Denobulan doffs? Star Charts also puts Maxia a sector over and the Tzenkethi not far away.
- For Klingons, I could see adding a three-wide sector block south of Eta Eridani, which would be mostly KDF. Move Alhena down there and nudge Boreth in, mix in some new planets, call it Lambda Geminorum Sector Block and you're golden.
- Star Charts shows the Federation border ending a sector north of Iota Pavonis. A four-square block there representing the Typhon Expanse would be most intriguing.
And I had, in fact, pointed out a lot of similarities. Sure, for all they got wrong, I'm surprised and pleased by what they got right. Sure, it's not EPIC LEVELS of similarity, but the fact that they actually did SOME homework impresses the crap out of me.
I've seen that local-neighbourhood graphic too but it's so pulled-back and with such large indicators for the stars that it's useful mainly for generalities. I went off a star map with a grid system when I compared STO and Star Charts.
Either way, it's nice to know multiple dorks exist here.
That's a very detailed and wonderful set of observations! Though I agree, Federation space seems a little lacking considering how many canon worlds are left out. But it is nice to see how much work the Star Charts did mapping on actual stellar cartography and how much work STO did copying the charts. Though I can't say I'm surprised, STO also did a lot of work to nod to things in the expanded universe.
Vice Admiral Meria Farron USS Stradivarius