The starmap is the center of the game. It shows planets, starships and starbases, and several other galactic features, depending on the game settings. Navigating around the map can be done by dragging it around with the mouse. You can zoom in and out with the mouse scroll wheel or with the "+" and "-" keys. Also, the "z" key toggles between normal view and zooming in on the center of the map. When the mouse hovers over an item on the starmap, the top right corner of the screen shows some basic information about that object. Selecting an object will give a more detailed view; if you own it, this will open an interface screen. In the top right corner is a drop-down list of map tools.
Planets are shown as solid colored circles. In the default settings, your planets are light blue, allied planets are dark blue, and enemy planets are red. Unexplored planets are grey, and unowned planets are brownish grey. If you left-click on a planet, the upper left of the screen shows a section with information about the planet. If the planet is yours, it also allows you to give orders.
Some planets have constructed starbases. These planets are shown as colored squares instead of circles. Starbases can build new ships, and can greatly increase the defense of their planet.
The colored dots between the planets represent starships. Light blue ships are yours. As with planets, clicking on a ship will show a ship section in the upper left of the screen. If a ship is in orbit of a planet, there is a circle around the planet. In that case, clicking on the location will create a small selection menu in the upper left corner. The same will happen if there are multiple ships in the same location.
If you have one of your ships selected, you can left-click on a location to order your ship to go there. This can also be done with the cursor keys. A ship with movement orders shows a line in the direction of its heading.
Minefields are areas of space full of warheads that menace passing starships. They are formed when a starship with torpedoes chooses the mission "Lay Mines". The starmap shows them as colored circles of various sizes. Bright green circles are your own mines, faded green circles are allied mines, red circles are enemy mines and purple circles are web mines.
Ion storms are disturbances in the void of space that can damage starships. They appear as yellow clouds. A vector from their center shows their speed and heading.
Explosions are shown as purple crosses. They are only shown for one turn, after which they are sadly forgotten.
Many games have advanced stellar cartography. These features enable more terrain differences in space. It is comprised of four main elements: nebulae, star clusters, debris disks and wormholes. Ion storms in such a setting can be more complex as well.
Nebulae are interstellar clouds of ionized gas that significantly reduce sensor range. This means that ships and planets can be hidden in the nebula. They appear like faint blue clouds. Do not mistake them for background. Nebulas interfere with many ship abilities, reduce the severity of ion storms and minefields decay faster, but planets in a nebula have more meteor showers and natives are easier to subdue.
Star clusters are huge collections of densely packed stars which can not be navigated by ships. They appear as circles (blue-white, grey-white, red or yellow) surrounded by a halo. They range in size, but they all send out deadly radiation that kills crew and colonist clans aboard starships, sometimes even creating "ghost ships". Ships that fly into or through a star cluster are destroyed.
Occasionally a planetary system may be replaced by a debris disk , which is a tightly packed collection of small asteroids and interstellar debris, with a few planetoids (large asteroids). They appear as shaded circles with several dots inside. Large starships are destroyed when they enter a debris disk, but smaller craft can do so. The little dots represent planetoids, where colonists can survive as long as they have plentiful supplies or a starbase. These planetoids often have large quantities of easily mined mineral concentrations, but only rarely do they have natives.
Wormholes are rifts in space that allow instantaneous movement of vast distances. Most wormholes support travel in both directions, but some are limited to travel in one direction. They appear as multi-colored spirals.