In the television series Star Trek and its spin-offs, Galactic quadrant refers to an area of the Milky Way Galaxy. In the original Star Trek, it referred to an area interchangeable with a sector. However, in the various spin-off series and movies beginning with Star Trek: The Next Generation, it refers to a system of four Galactic Quadrants, designated by the Greek letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, has been used.
The "Star Trek view" of the galaxy in real life
The term "quadrant" has been used in Star Trek: The Original Series since its inception in 1966. Note that, at the time, the galactic coordinate system had only been recently standardized in 1958.
While at least a few astronomical references to the term "galactic quadrant" were made prior to the series, some as early as 1927, the so-called "Star Trek view" of the galaxy has had some influence in the field of astronomy, and has seen occasional informal use in professional settings. For example, the Canadian Galactic Plane Survey (CGPS)—while creating a plan view map based on the "Star Trek view"—joked that it was "primarily concerned with Cardassia, while the SGPS focuses on Romulans." (Note: the SGPS is the Southern Galactic Plane Survey, based in Australia. Both it and the CGPS are projects of the Institute for Space Imaging Science (ISIS) Radio Astronomy division.)
Star Trek view delineation
By the convention set by the 1988 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Price," the four Star Trek "galactic quadrants" within Star Trek are based around a meridian that runs from the center of the galaxy through Earth's solar system, which is not unlike the system used by astronomers. However, rather than have the perpendicular axis run through the Sun, as is done in astronomy, the Star Trek version runs the axis through the galactic center instead. Also, rather than ordinals, quadrants are designated by the Greek letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta.
According to StarTrek.com, "if the great plane of the galaxy is viewed as a clockface and the 6 o'clock position bisects the Sol system" (when viewed from the galactic north pole), then the four fictional quadrants are as follow:
- Alpha Quadrant is the quarter appearing between 6 and 9 o'clock.
- Beta Quadrant is the quarter appearing between 3 and 6 o'clock.
- Gamma Quadrant is the quarter appearing between 9 and 12 o'clock.
- Delta Quadrant is the quarter appearing between 12 and 3 o'clock.
Inconsistencies in the franchise
In the original Star Trek, "quadrant" referred to an area interchangeable with a sector. However, in the various spin-off series and movies beginning with Star Trek: The Next Generation, it refers to a system of four Greek-letter Galactic Quadrants.
The original usage of "quadrant" appears in episodes such as "The Deadly Years" and "The Squire of Gothos," where numbered quadrants (448 and 904) are given. In other episodes, it appears to refer to an entire quarter of the galaxy. The season 3 Star Trek: The Next Generation Writers' Technical Manual asserts that there are four quadrants in each sector (which seem to vary in size).
The 1988 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Price" introduced the concept of four quadrants of the galaxy, named the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta quadrants.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country implies that the Alpha/Beta border runs through, or is relatively close to, Federation space. The Star Trek Encyclopedia attributes this decision to rationalize a line in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which James T. Kirk claimed that the Enterprise was the only ship in a Quadrant. Maps produced by the art staff for the series (both on-screen and published) show that the Alpha/Beta border runs through the Sol system.
Alpha and Beta Quadrants
Assuming the galactic meridian runs from the center of the galaxy through Earth's solar system, then the Alpha Quadrant is between 180 degrees and 270 degrees, and the Beta Quadrant is between 90 degrees and 180 degrees.
The Alpha Quadrant and the nearby areas of the Beta Quadrant are the primary setting of Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Enterprise. According to the Encyclopedia, the Federation is largely on the Alpha Quadrant side, but with parts in the Beta Quadrant; whereas the Klingon and Romulan Empires are mainly in the Beta Quadrant but extend in part into the Alpha Quadrant. The Star Trek Star Charts have the Romulans and Klingons entirely within the Beta Quadrant, as well as the Gorn Hegemony, the Son'a Solidarity and the Metron Consortium. Star Trek Star Charts further located the First Federation, Breen, Ferengi, Tzenkethi, Cardassians, Bajorans, Talarians and Tholians in the Alpha Quadrant.
Of core worlds, Star Trek Star Charts claims that Vulcan (40 Eridani), Andoria (Procyon), Risa, and the Rigel (Beta Rigel) systems are in the Beta Quadrant, with Tellar (61 Cygni), Trill, and Betazed in the Alpha Quadrant.
Star Trek Star Charts has the Romulans corewards and counterclockwise from the Federation core, with the Klingons rimwards of the Romulans. Federation territory is shown to expand around the backs of the Klingon and Romulan Empires, further into the Beta Quadrant. Other powers such as the Cardassians, Tholians and Ferengi are on the clockwise side of the Federation. The 1975 Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph also has a galactic meridian running through Sol, but depicted the Romulans as being counterclockwise, and the Klingons as being clockwise.
Although the Romulans and Klingons are shown by maps as part of the Beta Quadrant, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did not use this terminology, referring to them as Alpha Quadrant powers. Ronald D. Moore noted that the "Alpha quadrant is firmly planted in the audience's mind as where the Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans all live so I think we'll stick with that nomenclature."
About 600,000 years ago, the Alpha Quadrant was dominated by the Tkon Empire, which had long since vanished by the time of the Star Trek series.
The Gamma Quadrant is situated between 270 degrees and 360 degrees. It is the home of the Changelings, or Founders. The majority of it is ruled by the Dominion.
In the Star Trek universe, the Bajoran wormhole is a spatial anomaly located near the planet Bajor. The Bajoran religion refers to the wormhole as the "Celestial Temple". It appears as an aperture of swirling golden light surrounded by blue clouds, which appears when a vessel approaches and disappears when the vessel enters it; it also appears when discharging a vessel. The wormhole can only be traversed by ships traveling at impulse (sub-light speed) velocities.
The wormhole is discovered in the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is found to lead from the Bajor-B'Hava'el system in the Alpha Quadrant to the Idran system in the Gamma Quadrant, seventy thousand light-years away and on the other side of the galaxy. Due to the strategic importance of such a phenomenon, the Deep Space Nine space station is moved out of Bajor's orbit and re-positioned near the wormhole.
Starfleet Commander Benjamin Sisko and Lieutenant Jadzia Dax are the first to make contact with the wormhole and its creators, incorporeal beings known as the Prophets in Bajoran religion; they are simply referred to as "Wormhole Aliens" by the Federation. It is they who provided the Orb-like energy artifacts (or "Tears of the Prophets") to the Bajorans and these artifacts are the basis of Bajoran religion.
The wormhole becomes a point of conflict throughout the series, since it permits travel between the Alpha Quadrant and the Gamma Quadrant controlled by the Dominion, a malevolent organization led by the Changelings, a race of shapeshifters. Neither the Dominion nor the major powers of the Alpha Quadrant wish the other to gain a foothold in their relative quadrants, which explains the strategic importance of the wormhole running between them. The wormhole closes at one point, as a result of one of the Tears of the Prophets being temporarily rendered inert by the Pah Wraiths. It is later restored by the discovery of an additional orb by Benjamin Sisko.
The Delta Quadrant is situated between 0 degrees and 90 degrees.
Most of the information about the Delta Quadrant and its inhabitants comes from the show Star Trek: Voyager. Apart from the voyages of the USS Voyager, the USS Equinox, the USS Raven, briefly the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, and the Federation citizens assimilated or de-assimilated from the Borg, the United Federation of Planets has not yet fully explored this quadrant.
The Delta Quadrant is home to the Borg Collective, the Kazon, the Vidiians, the Talaxians, the Ocampa, the Hirogen, the Malon, as well as many others. Species 8472, beings from "fluidic space," are first encountered in this quadrant, although they are not native to this region or physical dimension.
On some maps the center of the galaxy is regarded as its own area, not part of any of the four quadrants. The Great Barrier is here and within it is "God" (the being encountered by Kirk and company in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier). Also here are the Cytherians from the TNG episode, "The Nth Degree."
- "Popular astronomy - Google Books". Books.google.com. 2009-12-02. http://books.google.com/books?id=7jkiAQAAIAAJ&q=%22galactic+quadrant%22&dq=%22galactic+quadrant%22&hl=en&ei=26pmTIrQDMGclgec2dyeBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAjiwBA. Retrieved 2010-08-17.
- "The Canadian Galactic Plane Survey – Plan Views of the Milky Way Galaxy". Ras.ucalgary.ca. http://www.ras.ucalgary.ca/CGPS/where/plan/. Retrieved 2010-08-17.
- "Star Trek Alpha Quadrant". Startrek.com. 2010-08-10. http://www.startrek.com/database_article/alpha-quadrant. Retrieved 2010-08-17.
- Trimble, Bjo (1995). Star Trek Concordance. Titan Books. ISBN 1-85286-676-4.
- Okuda, Mike; Denise, Okuda with Mirek, Debbie (1999). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Pocket Books. pp. 8 (Alpha Quadrant), 43 (Beta Quadrant), 111 (Delta Quadrant), 167 (Gamma Quadrant), 393 (Quadrant). ISBN 0-671-53609-5.
- Rick Sternbach and Mike Okuda (1989). Star Trek: The Next Generation Writers' Technical Manual. Lincoln Enterprises.
- Mendel, Geoffrey (2002). Star Trek Star Charts. Pocket Books. ISBN 0743437705.
- Ronald D. Moore (October 27, 1997). "Answers". Archived from the original on 2002-03-07. https://web.archive.org/20020307083849/www.geocities.com/Hollywood/6952/ron67.txt.
- Alpha Quadrant at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- Beta Quadrant at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- Gamma Quadrant at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- Delta Quadrant at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
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