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I am a UI designer working on a sci-fi strategy video game.

I was wondering wether anybody here might be able to help? I am looking for a top down projection of the Milky Way that labels regions of space. This is in order to start building a server map of linked 'matches'.

The space combat sim Elite:Dangerous has a galactic project split into 42 sectors (see attachment) although I know that most of the regions labelled are made up specifically for the game. Obviously I don't want to copy this, so wondered if there was a more scientific version we could base designs on.

Do regional maps of the Milky Way exist in science? Or is it purely a sci-fi thing?

Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

-Kie

Elite Dangerous Milky Way Map

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    $\begingroup$ the best map will be that made by gaia which is supposed to sample all the local group's regions... info at ESA and Wiki will lead you further: sci.esa.int/web/gaia $\endgroup$ – aliential Aug 28 at 17:47
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It doesn't exist.

It is actually rather difficult to see the shape of the milky way, because we are inside it. The more distant parts are obscured behind the nearer and very much of it is invisible. (We think that a supernova would happen every 50 years or so in a galaxy the size of the Milky Way, but none have been seen in nearly 400 years, so even massive bright events are hidden).

There are rough maps based on radio imaging of neutral hydrogen, but these are fuzzy and have artefacts, making part of the map invisible and part of it seems to point strongly towards the Sun. The well-know images of the milky way on Wikipedia are as good an artist's impression as any other.

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    $\begingroup$ I wonder if (a) we have reasonable maps of the Andromeda galaxy and (b) the OP would be happy to move his/her game to there? $\endgroup$ – Adam Chalcraft Aug 29 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ it has been mentioned, and its not a bad shout, but we are going to keep it Milky Way Focussed :) $\endgroup$ – kiemorar Aug 31 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ There are in fact estimates of the Milky Way as seen from above. For instance, see this year's Reid and Zheng work (also posted as another answer). It might be better to say that we are only just now barely getting enough information to make credible estimates of the view from above and these estimates will improve. $\endgroup$ – Eric Towers Aug 31 at 16:59
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Since posting I was reading Galaxy Map and came across the Gaia star density map. I think this is pretty much suitable for what I need. It is a top-down map, based on the Gaia star density information, out to 4500 pc from the sun.

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    $\begingroup$ I've edited to make this more like an answer and not a comment. Note your "map" is not a map of the whole galaxy, it is only a small region. The galaxy is about 30 kpc across, and this has a radius of 4.5 kpc, centred on the sun. $\endgroup$ – James K Aug 28 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks James, I appreciate that, and for pointing the distance out. $\endgroup$ – kiemorar Aug 28 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ +1; I think you'll find the best maps on galaxymap.org. $\endgroup$ – pela Aug 29 at 19:46
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The Star Trek sci-fi franchise has some maps of the milky way. Perhaps you could find them useful.

Example

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Cheers, I actually have the Star Trek: Star Charts book, it is very useful $\endgroup$ – kiemorar Aug 31 at 11:36
  • $\begingroup$ @kiemorar Thanks, guess I need to check out that book. :P $\endgroup$ – MEMark Aug 31 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ it's quite expensive on Amazon as its out of print, I believe the above illustration is from the book. $\endgroup$ – kiemorar Aug 31 at 18:39
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You might be happy with the Reid and Zheng maps (available at several resolutions, with or without coordinate frames, with or without the sun, and also from an oblique angle).

Early 2020 approximate best guess of the overhead view of the Milky Way

Their preprint describes their method of measuring several parallaxes, as well as incorporating several other sources of data (for instance, Wegg, Gerhard, and Portail's estimate of the location and dimensions of the bar in the core). From the first link: "It is currently the most scientifically accurate visualization of what the Milky Way looks like."

Of course, if you choose to use their image(s), get permission.

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