Elite Dangerous contains a vast 1:1 scale simulation of the Milky Way galaxy based on real scientific principles, current scientific data and theories. It includes around 400 billion star systems, and is modeled on actual galactic charts. Planets and moons rotate and orbit with 1:1 scale in real-time, thus constantly changing a system's environment. The galaxy is divided into 42 Galactic Regions.
Elite Dangerous features an immersive, evolving galaxy with dynamic societies, economy and stories, allowing pilots to join each other and influence the overarching narrative via the background simulation in the Milky Way.
- The vast 1:1 scale Milky Way galaxy is based on real scientific principles, scientific data, star catalogues and theories. It is created using a mix of procedural generation and artist direction. It has realistic astrophysics and scale.
- Around 400 billion star systems according to current scientific theories of star system formation with planets and moons that orbit and rotate. It includes well known systems like Sol and Alpha Centauri. Some systems have multiple stars.
- Groundbreaking in that it is based on a lot of hard science with all sorts of star surveys that are fixed and merged to for the first time in gaming history compose a very consistent model of the Milky Way galaxy and it is rich enough to plot the night sky.
- Cosmic phenomena, all different kinds of stars, star systems, black holes, detailed planets, moons, mountains, canyons, craters, planetary ring systems, star rise etc.
- Specially handcrafted overrides for 160,000 known stars in the night sky and planetary objects that we know and love. For example, our solar system Sol with Earth, the Moon and Mars. There are systems with recently discovered planets such as Trappist-1.
- Alien life such as fungal life.
- 141 nebula in the Milky Way galaxy.
- Star Clusters with rich survey data opportunities.
- 32 other galaxies are visible from the Milky Way.
- Several sapient species in the galaxy. The most notable are Humans, Thargoids and Guardians. More sapient species are yet to be discovered.
- 42 Galactic Regions, 9 major galactic arms and the Galactic Plane.
- Constellations can be seen from Sol.
Milky Way Galaxy
Elite Dangerous allows players to travel to almost every visible star seen from normal space. The constellations change with parallax as you explore the galaxy, and the night sky viewed from Earth is, of course, accurate.
We know the temperature, size and metallicity (the periodic elements that make up the star's composition) of those stars. And we also know the mass distribution of the Milky Way.
Our unique Stellar Forge system takes that information, rolls time backwards toward the Big Bang, and simulates from there the composition of hundreds of thousands of celestial bodies using the first principles that astrophysicists believe govern our universe. It uses the nebula hypothesis to simulate the composition and orbit of all the undiscovered stars, exoplanets, moons and black holes in our Milky Way galaxy.
This delivers both an incredibly accurate and beautiful cosmic ballet, with all the motions of the celestial bodies correct, and is also the foundation for the different economies of each system in-game.
The Galaxy Map is used to navigate through the Milky Way galaxy. The System Map displays a system's layout and information. Any discovered celestial and system information is documented on the System Map.
For Planetary Landings they've extended the simulation still further. Frontier takes into account the factors that govern the formation of planets, from the basic chemical composition, size, neighbouring moons and tectonic activity.
We simulate the compression of tectonic plates, so we can see where they'd move together and move apart. That creates where ridges are formed, mountains, or canyons and trenches.
You can seamlessly approach and land anywhere on a 1:1 scale planet and experience every square meter of terrain first-hand, either flying your ship close to the mountains and in the canyons, or landing and driving your SRV.
And again the simulation feeds directly into gameplay, with resources to be collected and synthesized, big surface ports to trade in, shipwrecks to explore and fortified settlements to be defeated.
There are 141 documented nebulae in the Milky Way galaxy and 32 external galaxies. They are all present in-game. The distances range from 380 light years from Sol to the Pleiades Nebula and up to 27,900 light years to the G2 dust cloud.
The Core Systems, also known as "The Bubble", is a sphere of about 150 light years around Sol where powers compete for influence, resources, territory and control. The territory volume is about 13.8 million cubic light years, and encompasses over 20,000 inhabited systems with over 66,000 stations, starports and outposts.
Elite Dangerous is groundbreaking in that the structure of its galaxy is based on hard science. Numerous star surveys were used to plot real stars in the night sky and help compose a consist model of the Milky Way.
During a keynote presentation at Nordic Game 2014 David Braben said, "We've taken a lot of hard science to compose the galaxy so everybody that's in all sorts of star surveys we've merged with fixed errors in the star surveys and so in one place, possibly for the first time we've got a very consistent model of the galaxy and it's rich enough that we can plot the night sky. But when we plotted the night sky as viewed from Earth it's really bright and it actually doesn't look right. So what we've then done is we've tuned the dust so that it actually matches the night sky when viewed from Earth. What's interesting is there is way more dust than most scientific theories say there should be. But we can tell by just wandering outside on a clear day and looking know that's what it should be so we are actually looking at that from sort of first principles. There really is a lot of dust, but the great thing from a game point of view is it actually makes the night sky very interesting. So you don't need to fly very far in game terms from Earth for the night sky to change quite dramatically. So for those who've played it we've actually put in most of the earth centric constellations in the sky, but when you travel a little away they all distort, but more important we are bang in the middle of this dust. So your night sky is quite dark, but if you go say a hundred light years directly out of the galactic plane it’s a bit like poking up. When you're on a plane taking off from an airport, you get that amazing view when you come out of the clouds looking out of the window and you suddenly see right across. That's what it's like and some of the systems, Achenar for example is the center of the Empire and a giant system which is actually out of the galactic plane so you can see across to the galaxy just a little bit it's just wonderful."
The Codex has a Discoveries section and the galaxy consists of 42 regions. Each galactic region has information detailing the stellar bodies, geological/biological entities and civilisation contained within them. Within each system, there are a variety of things for you to discover, such as stars, terrestrials, species, gas giants, Points of Interest and more.
As of March 2, 2018, Commanders have discovered 112,863,791 individual star systems, which is only 0.028% of the systems in the galaxy. Over 20,262,978,541 light-years have been hyperspaced since Elite Dangerous was released.
As of February 26, 2019, only 0.036% of the galaxy had been explored.
As of December 16, 2019, only 0.042% of the galaxy had been explored.
EDSM made traffic report videos which show ship movement and exploration in the galaxy. It's based on data taken from EDSM flight logs. ED-Board made an Elite: Dangerous Heatmap timelapse generated from the edsm.net database (systems data submitted by E:D players) to show progress of the Milky Way exploration. Check the explorer page for more information.
Hanekura Shizuka decided to see just how long a circumnavigation of the galaxy would take. He started at the Witch Head Science Center to its finish at Achrende. It went pretty fast. He started at 18:55:00 on May 23, 3304, and finished at 08:11:13 on May 31. Total time to circumnavigate the galaxy was: 7 days, 13 hours, 16 minutes, 13 seconds.
Brown dwarf layer
There is a layer of systems throughout the galaxy that has a very high density of brown dwarf stars. The layer is located approximately on the galactic plane. This represents a hazard to exploration navigation because it contains very few scoopable stars.
The online galaxy of Elite: Dangerous is a shared universe maintained by a central server. All of the meta data for the galaxy is shared between players on all platforms. This includes the galaxy itself as well as transient information like economies. The aim here is that a player's actions will influence the development of the galaxy, without necessarily having to play multiplayer.
The other important aspect for the developers is that they can seed the galaxy with events, often these events will be triggered by player actions. With a living breathing galaxy players can discover new and interesting things long after they have started playing.
The game features a shared persistent galaxy server, where macro effects and events such as economy, society and war status etc. are recorded.
Powerplay is an ongoing battle for interstellar conquest and control in the galaxy. Powers are powerful individuals and organizations which players can pledge allegiance to help guide their strategy, and take on special objectives to advance shared goals. Player choices and actions have a direct and visible impact on the balance of galactic power.
The server transparently creates free roaming sessions (instances) when meeting other players and NPCs within that galaxy based on a perception bubble around you, that is defined by your scanner/visual range. That means that those instances are not a fixed location in space as in most other MMOs, but they dynamically move around. The effects of those instances are then stored on the central galaxy server and shared by everybody.
Because the game features very high speed twitch combat and very detailed damage models, this is the most reliable way to do it, also keep in mind there can be many sessions within a star system and those sessions can dynamically move around, also because this game uses a 1:1 scale Milky Way galaxy, sessions will typically be spread out much farther away (although most of the action will be within the core systems) and it wouldn't be immersion breaking as opposed to a space game in a smaller area.
Every week the servers go offline to allow the Galaxy's persistent data to update:
- Star System & Station/Outpost ruling minor factions, alignment, and available commodities & services
- Powerplay Control/Exploited Systems
- Addition of new Community Goals
The update usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes, during which time you cannot login to the Milky Way.
The official Elite: Dangerous Role Playing Game has in-depth lore about the universe of Elite: Dangerous. Here's a summary:
Cheap and faster than light travel has enabled humanity to expand across the stars. They've built colonies, cities, stations and empires. This led to the rise of galactic superpowers: the Federation, Empire and Alliance. The galaxy's vast wealth of minerals, water and life-bearing planets makes them wealthier every day. Such wealth of the major factions attracts powerful people who scheme daily to gain power.
The middle-classes can afford spaceships like cars in the 20th century. This gives them tremendous freedom. Space trade is seldom hampered by politics. Pilots are encouraged to do all kinds of jobs such as supplying stations. Little has changed for those in the bottom of society since the old-Earth's dark ages. The planet-spanning mega corporations employ entire nations and rule unchecked over vast sections of the galaxy. Weapons are readily available and people are inclined to shoot first. The general lawlessness of space, inequality, greed of the galactic elite, navigational hazards and fierce creatures on planets make it a dangerous galaxy.
A total of 32 galaxies have been identified by CMDR Dr. Kaii (including dwarf and irregular galaxies). The nearest galaxy is the Large Magellanic Cloud at 158,200 light years. The furthest is NGC 6703 at 106 million light years.
This table gives an overview of visible galaxies.
|Name||Other Designations||Type||Number of Stars*||Direction||Distance (ly)**|
|Large Magellanic Cloud||Nubecula Major||Irr||20 billion||Towards the Magellanic Clouds||158,200|
|Small Magellanic Cloud||Nubecula Minor / NGC 292||Irr||3 billion||Towards the Magellanic Clouds||199,000|
|Ursa Minor Dwarf3||E5||7 million||West Up||200,000|
|Sextans Dwarf||Sextans I||E4||25 million||East Up||290,000|
|Sculptor Dwarf||ESO 351-30||E0||50 million||Towards the Magellanic Clouds||290,000|
|Carina Dwarf||E3||35 million||Towards the Magellanic Clouds||330,000|
|Fornax Dwarf||E4||130 million||Towards the Magellanic Clouds||460,000|
|Leo II||DDO 93||E0||90 million||East Up||690,000|
|Leo I||DDO 74||E3||40 million||East Up||820,000|
|NGC 6822||IC 4895 / MCG -2-50-6 / DDO 209||Irr||700 million||North Down||1,600,000|
|IC 10||UGC 192 / MCG 192 / IRAS 177+5900||Irr||160 million||Above Andromeda||2,200,000|
|IC 1613||UGC 668 / MCG 0-3-70 / DDO 8||Irr||2 billion||Below Andromeda||2,380,000|
|Andromeda I||KK 8||E0||70 Million||Below Andromeda||2,400,000|
|Andromeda III||KK 5||E6||8 Million||Below Andromeda||2,440,000|
|M32||NCG 221 / UGC 452 / MCG 7-2-15||E2||1 billion||Below Andromeda||2,490,000|
|Andromeda||M 31 / NGC 224 / UGC 454 / MCG 7-2-16||Sb||***1 trillion||Below Andromeda||2,500,000|
|Cassiopeia 1||KK 19||Irr||6 billion||Above Andromeda||2,550,000|
|NGC 147 & NGC 185****||E5 / E3||1 billion||Above Andromeda||2,580,000|
|Leo A||DDO 69||Irr||40 million||East Up||2,600,000|
|Triangulum||M 33 / NGC 598 / UGC 1117 / MCG 5-4-69||Sc||***40 billion||Below Andromeda||3,000,000|
|Pegasus Dwarf||DDO 216||dIrr||50 million||Below Andromeda||3,000,000|
|WLM||Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte / DDO 221||Irr||830 million||Directly Down||3,000,000|
|Aquarius Dwarf||DDO 210||Irr||8 million||North Down||3,200,000|
|Sagittarius DIG||ESO 594-4||Irr||40 million||North Down||3,390,000|
|Antlia Dwarf||PGC 29194||E3||50 million||East Up||4,000,000|
|NGC 3109||ESO 499-36 / MCG -4-24-13 / UGCA 194||Sb||15 billion||East Up||4,300,000|
|Sextans A||DDO 75||Irr||570 million||East Up||4,310,000|
|IC 5152||ESO 237-27 / AM 2159-513 / IRAS 21594-5132||Irr||1 billion||Towards the Magellanic Clouds||5,800,000|
|Andromeda IV||Irr||600 million||Below Andromeda||6,100,000|
|NGC 404||UGC 718 / MCG 6-3-18 / ZWG 520.20||S0||900 million||Below Andromeda||10,000,000|
|NGC 69462||UGC 11597 / MCG 10-29-6 / ZWG 304.6||SBc||100 billion||West Up||22,000,000|
|NGC 69521||NGC 6951 / UGC 11604 / MCG 11-25-2||SBc||170 billion||West Up||74,000,000|
|IC 15023||UGC 12706 / UGC 12105 / MCG 13-1-2||Sa||7 billion||West Up||82,000,000|
|NGC 59851||UGC 9969 / MCG 10-22-30 / ZWG 297.25||SBb||1 trillion||West Up||100,000,000|
|NGC 67032||UGC 11356 / MCG 8-34-20 / ZWG 255.14||S0||110 billion||West Up||106,000,000|
*Taken from Space Engine (not reliable, but probably good estimates) **Almost all distances taken from Wikipedia. A few I had to find some papers or astronomy sites to get some of them from ***Taken from Wikipedia - check source there ****Physically paired galaxies1 Only one (or neither) of these is correct2 Only one (or neither) of these is correct3 Only one (or neither) of these is correct.
- Elite Dangerous: Our Galaxy
- Elite Dangerous Star Map: Statistics (December 18, 3305)
- Frontier Forums: Celebrating 5 years of Elite Dangerous!
- Content Recap: Beyond - Chapter Four Livestream - Exploration and the Codex
- Sagittarius Eye Bulletin - Galactic Circumnavigation Record Shattered
- List and Sky Charts of other Visible Galaxies in Elite