The four-way junction between DNA helices is the central intermediate in recombination, and the manner of its interaction with resolvase enzymes can determine the genetic outcome of the process. A knowledge of its structure is a prerequisite to understanding the interaction with proteins, and there has been recent progress. Here we use fluorescence energy transfer to determine the relative distances between the ends of a small DNA junction, and hence the path of the strands. Our results are consistent with the geometry of an 'X'. The interconnected helices are juxtaposed so that the continuous strands of each helix generate an antiparallel alignment, and the two interchanged strands do not cross at the centre. The acute angle of the X structure is defined by a right-handed rotation of the helical axes about the axis perpendicular to the X plane, as viewed from the centre of the X.