For example: http://www.ufstarfleet.org/wiki/index.php?title=Galactic_Directions

It shows some names used for directions of the galaxy.

Coreward refers the direction of the galactic core, the centre of the galactic coordinate system. Coreward is always mapped at the top of a galactic map.

Rimward is the opposite direction from Coreward, referring to the direction away from the Galactic Core, towards the galactic rim. It is always mapped at the bottom of a galactic map.

Spinward refers to the direction of the Galactic Spin, i.e. the direction the galaxy is rotating to. On star maps, Spinward is mapped on the left hand side of the map.

Trailing, the final of the four galactic directions, refers to the direction against the Galactic Spin, i.e. the direction contrary to the galaxy's movement around its own axis. Trailing is usually mapped on the right hand side of the map.

Are these names original to Star Trek or were they sourced from any other work? Are they used by real astronomers?

  • 1
    Since your question is about whether this is an actual real-life science term, and we specialise in science fiction, the space.se site might be better equipped to tell you if it appears in actual scientific discourse. – BESW Jan 19 '14 at 10:34
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    I've edited your question to hopefully prevent it from being closed. @BESW - real-life science with reference to a specific work is on-topic per the close reason text ("questions seeking scientific solutions or explanations are off-topic unless they relate directly to a cited work of fiction") - since this question cites a specific work it should stay open. – user8719 Jan 19 '14 at 13:57
  • That is a fan site for Second Life fans of Star Trek, with non-canon that takes place after Voyager. That said, those seem to be common-enough terms outside of Star Trek that fansites just use them with the assumption people will understand. I don't recall them actually being used in the TV series, though... – Izkata Jan 19 '14 at 17:18
  • Side note, are there any words for the direction perpendicular to the galactic plane? – Aaron Franke Dec 30 '18 at 10:25

As far as I know it's (partially) made up and they started naming them like that some time during TNG. Older episodes (TNG and TOS) screwed around with sectors, quadrants, etc. without any obvious consistency.

However, there is some reasoning behind this and the overall idea isn't that bad at all. In fact, real scientists use a similar system, although using different naming schemes (just numbers). On this page you can find a rather nice map. Note that the map is seen from the other side (i.e. from below) when compared to the standard Star Trek maps.

There are some noteable differences and things to consider:

  • The real quadrants originate from the sun, not the galactic core.
  • The real quadrants are numbered (as typical in geometry) rather than using greek letters.
  • Star Trek's version is really weird for consistency/plausibility:

    • The "4 quadrant separation" seems to be primarily used/created by the Federation.
    • Yet for some reason all species accept and understand the concept of "alpha quadrant", "gamma quadrant", or "delta quadrant", and immediately know what it means.
    • This could be explained with the Universal Translator, but at the same time it wouldn't make any sense (to me) that all species, from wherever they are, use the same orientation for the axes/quadrant separation/numbering.

The earliest source I'm aware of for these names is the Traveller RPG, originally from 1977, which used them exactly as Star Trek does: Coreward, Rimward, Spinward, Trailing (or Trailward).

See "Galactic Directions", "Library Data (A-M)" (dated to 1981), and "The Spinward Marches" (dated to 1979) for sources.

If Star Trek didn't start using them until TNG (per Mario's answer) then they're definitely copied, and this is a likely source from which they were copied.

  • @user14111 - that makes sense; there's a Ringworld in the Traveller universe too so there were obviously some influences coming over. – user8719 Jan 19 '14 at 14:43
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    The Niven directions appear in the original Ringworld from 1970. And there is an interesting set of directions in The Integral Trees (in, out, east, west), which might be rather more akin to a set you could choose for galactic coordinates. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jan 19 '14 at 16:25

A quick search of over 11 million English-language scientific papers on Scirus and Science Direct reveals precisely zero references to the words 'Coreward' and 'Rimward' in relation to galactic positioning.

The only scientific use I can see is in relation to the study of microbes within petri dishes.

  • If you refer to the study code named "Men in Black" you will know that petri dishes have close relationship with cosmology. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 20 '14 at 0:53
  • That's as maybe, but I haven't found a single real world scientist who uses those terms. .. – Valorum Jan 20 '14 at 7:30

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