Wed
Feb 2 2011 12:17pm

A History of Star Wars Galaxy Maps

Star Wars Galaxy

You know what everyone loves in their epic science fiction/fantasy? Maps. Our favorite characters quest through a variety of environments, planets, lands, and dimensions during their journeys and it’s fun to know just where everything is in relation to each other, as well as what might lay just offscreen...

In the last two decades, as the Star Wars universe has expanded in every format, this astrographical curiosity has gotten larger and larger. Interestingly, maps have followed suit with this expansion. Below the cut, we’ve assembled a history of Star Wars maps.

Although the original Star Wars trilogy is over 30 years old, the need to map the galaxy didn’t arise until Star Wars began expanding into post-Return of the Jedi novels, comics, and games. With the addition of more worlds, more races, and more characters came a need to house them.

Even still, a map wasn’t entirely necessary, and an official map never released, until Del Rey began the New Jedi Order novel book series. The multi-book arc concerned an extragalactic threat that would squish Chewbacca flat grow to consume many familiar worlds. The publishers knew readers would appreciate knowing what worlds were threatened, so in the 1999 debut novel Vector Prime they introduced the first official detailed map of the Star Wars galaxy.

Star Wars Vector Prime galaxy map

Vector Prime came out a few months after the first Star Wars prequel A Heartful of Yippee The Phantom Menace, hence the placement of Naboo, a planet whose appearance effectively ties together a fictional era in the Star Wars universe spanning six decades, from the prequels to the Expanded Universe.

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Incidentally, it seems a rough version of the above map had been circulating, as a sparse version was seen in this rough chart from the Episode 1 edition of Inside the Worlds of Star Wars.

Inside the Worlds of Star Wars map

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The next key novel in the New Jedi Order series, 2000s Balance Point would show an updated version of this map, showing the various war fronts in play. To the reader, it seemed like the invading Yuuzhan Vong were making mincemeat out of the New Republic.

Balance Point Star Wars galaxy map

Not all hope was lost, however, even if most of the Solo kids were. For the final installment, 2003s The Unifying Force, the galaxy map was cleared of war fronts and updated to include all the discoveries made in the series’ 20+ titles.

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Episode 2 Star Wars galaxy map

In another era, on the eve of another war, we got a peek at a galaxy map in Episode 2, A Begrudging Love Story Attack of the Clones. This beauty, readily available in the Jedi Archives on Coruscant, doesn’t offer any identifying details but does seem to imply that the Star Wars galaxy is a lot like our own in that it has at least two dwarf galaxies orbiting it. In fact, Star Wars wiki Wookiepedia counts seven possible satellite galaxies, far outnumbering the Milky Way.

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Star Wars Insider galaxy map

In 2003, the official galaxy map gained more worlds and full color! This map first appeared in The Official Star Wars Fact File issue #1 in 2002, then resurfaced in issue #65 of Star Wars Insider in February 2003.

It was very nicely done, but perhaps a silly move on the part of the magazine when they knew Star Wars Episode 3 NOOOOOOOOOO Revenge of the Sith would be out in two years, calling for the need of yet another map. (Or perhaps not, considering how happy Lucasarts is to have its customers buy and rebuy the same basic product.)

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Essential Guide to Chronology Star Wars galaxy map

The Star Wars New Essential Guide to Chronology (2005) contained a map updated for Episode 3 and that was mostly concerned with illustrating the main commerce routes of the galaxy. While not quite as detailed, it was certainly helpful in planning your next jump into hyperspace.

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Galactic Explorations Star Wars galaxy mapThe official mapping of the Star Wars galaxy would remain stable for the next few years, as the fervor around Star Wars died down, although variations on the above maps were still showing up in fan design efforts and ensuing video games like Knights of the Old Republic.

New information wouldn’t be added in until the 2009 publication of Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, which included over 200 worlds, asteroids, and notable sites. (Up substantially from the 30 or so in the first official map.)

Galactic population in the Star Wars galaxyThe new atlas gave an illustrated top down view of the galaxy, dividing it into sectors and, for the first time, producing population and exploration statistics.

Now not only could you figure out which planets were less prone to tourism and crowds, but you could learn when they had been settled. It was a sight better than the simple regional maps that had been created in the past.

But the greatest from The Essential Atlas was the straight up map, written and compiled by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry and illustrated by Ian Fullwood, Modi, Chris Reiff, and Chris Trevas.

Finally, in blistering detail, containing all the planets named in both the prequels and the Expanded Universe (and updated regularly at the above Atlas link) was a map that any good smuggler would be proud to keep for reference in his ship’s rec room. Oogle to your heart’s content.

Essential Star Wars Atlas galaxy map

The astrography ends there for now, but we’re sure we’re not yet done with Star Wars galaxy maps. Star Wars as a space fantasy tale has always resisted analysis, but it’s uncertain how long it can hold out against the enterprising graphic designer, the bored statistics fiend, or the burgeoning physicist. Thirty-plus years later, we’ve still only barely explored this galaxy far, far away.

[Some images and info sourced from Wookiepedia and Official Star Wars Galaxy Maps]


Emily Asher-Perrin cosplayed as Rose Tyler at San Diego ComicCon 2010 with a fantastic Ten—yes, it was awesome. She writes for Starpulse.com and Examiner.com and likes tweeting just as much as you do.

15 comments
JS Bangs
1. jaspax
Even as someone who has very little knowledge of Star Wars arcana, these maps are drool-worthy. But some questions for the knowing: what's the in-universe explanation for the fact that the Deep Core was explored so late? And why has galactic explanation been so lopsided towards the Galactic East, with the Galactic West remaining largely unknown?
Joe Sherry
2. jsherry
If I remember correctly about the Deep Core, that's where some pre Old Republic stuff took place (The Empress Teta system, for example).

It was known, but there were breakdowns of the Hyperspace lanes due to weird gravity stuff.

Or, Wookieepedia's entry on the Deep Core. Just read the first paragraph.
Michael Burke
3. Ludon
@jaspax #1

My guess would be that the west region was listed as unknown in order to assure that space would remain for the worlds and threats that would be introduced in later stories. And the reason for the lack of exploration of that area will likely also be explained in those later stories.
Luke M
4. lmelior
Very awesome post.

One bit that always bothered me was that the core -- especially the deep core -- should be pretty much uninhabitable. Though the idea is relatively new, it seems likely there is a galactic habitable zone similar to the habitable zone around stars. The core is far more dense and bulging then the nice, calm, mid- to outer-rim, sparsely-populated arm where we reside. Frequent supernovae, passing stars, and radiation from the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy make the core a far more dangerous place.

It looks like the Deep Core article addresses that, though I can't imagine such planets (or life on such planets) last very long in astronomical terms.
Jonah Feldman
5. relogical
I had the galactic map from Star Wars Gamer on my wall for years, even after I no longer followed Star Wars. It's the ultimate symbol of how the franchise actually makes an effort to be consistent and inclusive, unlike most licensed expanded universes. Sure, Lucas doesn't acknowledge it, and it often fails to hold together, but you get a good feeling when some new EU book namechecks a planet that appeared in an Amiga video game or an obscure old Marvel comic.
Dan Wallace
6. Dan Wallace
Great stuff, and thanks for posting! I'm the guy who planned a lot of these maps. While you're right on the money regarding most of these, the map in Vector Prime wasn't the first official Star Wars map -- one year prior, a bare-bones map appeared in a CD-ROM called Behind the Magic.

Here's a link to an article I wrote in 2002 about how we created most of the early maps: http://sites.google.com/site/danwall88/content

I also co-wrote 2009's Star Wars Atlas with Jason Fry, and wrote up a bunch of behind-the-scenes endnotes with more detail on the maps for those who might be interested. Here's the link: http://geekosity.blogspot.com/search/label/star%20wars%20atlas
Dan Wallace
7. Dan Wallace
Great stuff, and thanks for posting! I'm the guy who planned a lot of these maps. While you're right on the money regarding most of these, the map in Vector Prime wasn't the first official Star Wars map -- one year prior, a bare-bones map appeared in a CD-ROM called Behind the Magic.


Here's a link to an article I wrote in 2002 about how we created most of the early maps: http://sites.google.com/site/danwall88/content


I also co-wrote 2009's Star Wars Atlas with Jason Fry, and wrote up a bunch of behind-the-scenes endnotes with more detail on the maps for those who might be interested. Here's the link: http://geekosity.blogspot.com/search/label/star%20wars%20atlas
Dan Wallace
8. The2ndQUest
The Deep Core wasn't explored as much, as the densely-packed nature of it's region limited the viable routes- and many of those would breakdown or be rendered ineffective by the relatively-rapid movement within the area.

The western portion of the map, in-universe, remains mostly inaccessible due to hyperspace barriers blocking it off from the rest of the galaxy.

Some ancient & lost civilizations/races are said to come from there, and it's implied/speculated the barrier was of their doing- either to isolate themselves from everyone else (or by someone else to isolate/trap THEM in) or the result of an ancient conflict.

Out of universe, it's obviously meant to maintain a sense of some frontier yet to be explored- one that could perhaps be hiding ancient threats and super powers.
Dan Wallace
9. TheDumbass
I've known Star Wars was lame ever since they showed the clones to Obi-Wan and rather than being outraged at the genetic engineering of submissive humans who like to fight, his response was "Very nice -- we'll take 10 million." The Jedi are worse than neo-conservatives.
This map is not that lame, but still lame. The closer you get to a galactic nucleus, the hotter it becomes. Beta and gamma radiation from the black hole at the galactic nucleus render the central regions of most galaxies completely uninhabitable. Lame, lame, lame.
Chris Greenland
10. greenland
Dan, those links are intense! Ya'll should write a book or something. :)

(For those curious, there are histories and more detailed partial maps in those links. They're pretty detailed. Also for some reason I never noticed that Hoth is just off a main trade route. Way to hide, Rebels.)
Emily Asher-Perrin
11. EmilyAP
@Dan Wallace: Wow, thanks so much for the links and the info! The work you put into these maps is really just phenomenal; I know I'm glad to have them for reference.

(Of course, now that I think back, I really should have remembered that first map--a friend of mine had that CD-ROM. I suppose I'll have to do the Fan Walk of Shame now. *bows head*)
Dan Wallace
12. RynalG
I read some of the above comments and I have to say, you gotta be an idiot to take Star Wars so seriously that you get angry because Han made the Kessel run in 12 parsecs. Yes, we know it is a unit of distance and not time. It's just a STORY. It is just entertainment, nothing more. If you have that much of a problem, write your own stories. That's what I'm doing at grantfanfic.blogspot.com.
Dan Wallace
13. Urza
Yeap! Behind the Magic did indeed predate NJO. I wish I still had Behind the Magic.. I lost the cd a looong time ago. :(
Dan Wallace
14. Urza
@RynalG

What are you going on about? No one is talking about that. Trolling much.

Anyway, to address your parsec thing, the "Kessel Run" is a spice run through a maze of black holes. There are only a few safe routes through it and many of them are long and takea lot of time. Han did the kessel run in 12 parsecs by flying sooo dangerously close he took advantage to how blackholes bend time AND space. Thus cutting the length of the journey signficiantly.
Dan Wallace
15. lawrence m jones
i am seking a healing memory atmosphere formula equation structurerer for a healing space suit time machine communicator. for attending school.

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