There are a plethora of systems to explore and jump gates to use. There are systems with multiple massive stars near the galactic core, older more populated systems near the ancient Sol.
While the older systems contain many gates, some jump gates stand alone, untethered from any star. These exist in nebulae where radiation create false targets, and dark asteroids clusters harboring pirates, freedom fighters, and mining bases away from prying eyes.
Complicating matters, specific information is rare. Accurate starmaps or even how many gates a system has is data that's hard to come by. Worse still, many jump gates have fallen into disrepair and frequently send ships to the wrong exit, or into deep interstellar space. Exploration tends to require a leap of faith as you jump into the unknown.
Encounters involve interaction with the local community. A system's specific history and parameters will determine how npc's interact with each other and your ship. The system's age, native resources, distance to Sol, and which factions are powerful in the solar neighborhood all contribute to this system. As you might imagine, this can all drastically alter the how a situation unfolds.