The action of traveling in or through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it.
Thorough analysis of a subject or theme (or star system).
The first point has been long lost… All systems including wormholes have been visited, planets and moons analysed, asteroid belts cataloged and results published by various third party websites. Some of this information has been brought back into the game: Agency, Planetary Interaction window check it out. There is no exploration of this type in EVE Online.
The second point is what is left. Go to a system, determine if there are signatures and scan. Scanning was the barrier to entry to these sites.
Not to long ago, you needed the following: Specialty probes to determine if signatures where in system. Specialty probes to find the sites within the signature list that you were interested in. A ship that could remove the rats in order to complete the sites. Leaving probes behind resulted in lost probes.
Also, you had a ship born analyzer. This had a range of 4au. You where required to fly planet to planet and scan the area to find anomalies. (Now you know why all pre WH, Sleeper and Ghost site signatures are all within 4au of planets).
This was a niche profession because it required patience, practice and time to succeed. It bored many people and many more thought it was a pain to do. The result was a small community that made a LOT of money.
Over time the scanning was changed. Quality of life updates occurred including the creation of custom probe patterns, removal of some probes and consolidation of others.
Then the Odyssey patch occurred. This introduced the Discovery Scanner: Upon entering a system you are now told what anomalies and signatures exist in the system and where they are. You simply needed to scan them down or just warp to them. Probes where automatically recalled to your cargo bay upon system exit. Scanning was made easier with the introduction of predetermined probe patterns and scanning mid slot moduals. A scanning career agent was introduced and the hacking mini game that was never iterated on appeared. Rats where removed from data and relic sites. “Exploration” in EVE was made a beginners profession and prices for most things from hacking and combat sites tanked. (No need to discuss the loot spew mechanic).
When the Agency window was first introduced, it included the system name and jump range like it does now on SISI for all signatures. After threads like this one, the devs removed that information. Here we are again.
The above has been a basic history of EVE Online exploration. Do a Google search:
EVE online exploration 2007
There are some really good guides.
I would respectfully suggest that Exploration as defined at the beginning this post does not exist in EVE and has not for a long time. Only the second part of the definition lingered on until Odyssey. Scanning is the low barrier of entry to finding these sites. Hacking is a profession. Running combat sites is a profession. Exploration does not exist in EVE Online.
Will exploration ever return to this game?