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All the members of Orion are within the Milky way, and some of them look pretty close to a neighbor. And could the bow* be an effect similar to the Radcliffe Wave?
The three stars in Orion's belt, along with Sigma Orionis and the Orion Nebula cluster, along with several other young clusters and star forming regions in the central Orion region are all part of the Orion OB1 association at a distance of 350-420 pc.
A review of Orion OB1 can be found in Bally (2008). The three belt stars are probably a similar age and distance and form the brightest stars of the OB1b sub-association. Measured distances to these stars are individually rather uncertain, but better estimates come from the low-mass, co-moving stars around them. It is therefore true to say that the individual distances to each star are not known well enough to be sure that they are close together in distance.
The other bright stars in Orion - Betelgeuse, Rigel, Bellatrix, Saiph are significantly closer than this by 150-300 pc and probably not at a common distance. It has been speculated in the past though that these stars and the Orion OB1 association are part of one, large star forming complex, extending 200-300 pc along the line of sight (Bouy & Alves 2015).
The recent paper, claiming the discovery of a "Radcliffe wave" gas structure in the solar vicinity, does include the young stars in Orion as part of this structure.
So to spell it out: The belt stars are within 70pc of each other in terms of distance. If they are at a similar distance of 400pc, their angular separation on the sky of around 3 degrees, translates to a tangential distance separation of about 20 pc. Other members are more separated than this.
Based on links on this page, the closest visible star in Orion (that is, the region of the sky called Orion) is Pi3 Orionis (π3 Orionis), a.k.a Tabit, a.k.a al-thābit, a.k.a. Zhāng Qí Liù. This is the point where the arm touches the shield/bow. That page says it is 26.2 light-years away; Wikipedia says its 26.32 ± 0.04 light-years or 8.07 ± 0.01 parsecs away. Both call it a main sequence F6 star (F6V). In any case, it's a very nearby star and much closer, and smaller, than the bright stars of Orion that you are probably thinking of, which are all hundreds of light-years away.
Based on other links on that page, the (very dim) known stars in Orion closer than π3 Orionis are:
- WISE J052126.29+102528.4, at 12~21 ly
- LTT 17897, at 17.5 ly
- G 099-049, at 17.6 +/- 1.0 ly
- BD-03 1123, at 18.6 ly
- Ross 47, at 18.9 ly
(Those 1st 2 MIGHT be 2 names for the same star, based on my attempts to look them up, even if those who made the page obviously didn't think so.)
- G 99-44, at 20.9 +/- 0.1 ly
- G 99-47, at 26.1 ly
Almost as close is the visible binary star Χ1 Orionis (Chi1 Orionis) (the tip of the club/arm), which is 28.3 ly away according to that page and 28.26 ± 0.07 ly or 8.66 ± 0.02 pc away according to Wikipedia.
If we limit ourselves to only tallking about Betelgeuse, Rigel, Bellatrix, Mintaka, Alnilam, Alnitak, Saiph and Meissa, then the answer is probably Bellatrix (the top shoulder on the viewers right, as opposed to Betelgeuse, which is on the other side). Wikipedia cites this paper* for it estimated distance of 250 ± 10 light-years or 77 ± 3 parsecs away.
That being said, distances are one of the hardest things to measure in astronomy, and, for example, I know that Betelgeuse used to have huge uncertainties in its distance before it was recently narrowed down to being about 25% closer than the older most likely distance. The current distance is 458~597 ly or 153~195 pc, the last range coming directly from the October 2020 paper.* This makes it probably the second closest of those bright stars in Orion I mentioned.
As a final note, it's important to remember that constellations are just stars that happen to be in about the same direction from Earth's perspective. They aren't actual collections of stars, even if there may be actual collections of stars in them, like how several (but definitely not all) of the stars in Orion are suspected to be related to each other. I didn't know anthing about the Radcliff wave until I looked it up just now, nor do I know if the bow/shield ASTERISM (i.e. pattern people see in the sky) might PARTIALLY correspond to anything physical, and I'm not an astronomer.
*van Leeuwen, F. (November 2007). "Validation of the new Hipparcos reduction". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 474 (2): 653-664. arXiv:0708.1752. Bibcode:2007A&A… 474… 653V. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078357. S2CID 18759600.
*Joyce, Meridith; Leung, Shing-Chi; Molnár, László; Ireland, Michael; Kobayashi, Chiaki; Nomoto, Ken'Ichi (2020). "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: New Mass and Distance Estimates for Betelgeuse through Combined Evolutionary, Asteroseismic, and Hydrodynamic Simulations with MESA". The Astrophysical Journal. 902 (1): 63. arXiv:2006.09837. Bibcode:2020ApJ… 902… 63J. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/abb8db. S2CID 221507952.
In this Wikimedia animation of Orion's appearence from Earth evolving over time from the distant past to the distant future, you can see π3 Orionis moving rapidly towards Bellatrix (not actually towards Bellatrix in space, just towards being roughly between it and Earth). Bellatrix and the other bright stars barely move scross the sky because they are much further away, and so would have to move much faster through space to move the same speed across the sky. The other rapidly moving stars are probably other nearby stars.
Orion the Hunter is easy to spot
Tonight – or any winter evening – look for the constellation Orion the Hunter. It’s probably the easiest to pick out of all the constellations in the Northern Hemisphere winter sky (Southern Hemisphere summer sky). It’s identifiable by Orion’s Belt, three medium-bright stars in a short, straight row at the mid-section of the Hunter. Pick out any three equally bright stars in a row this evening, and you’ll probably be looking at Orion. Want to be sure? There are two even brighter stars – one reddish and the other blue – on either side of the Belt stars.
As seen from mid-northern latitudes, you’ll find Orion in the southeast at early evening and shining high in the south by mid-to-late evening (around 9 to 10 p.m. local time). If you live at temperate latitudes south of the equator, you’ll see Orion high in your northern sky around this hour.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Cecille Kennedy in Depoe Bay, Oregon, captured this photo of the Orion constellation on January 15, 2021. She wrote: “Stars on a rare clear sky at the Oregon coast. I connected the stars of the constellation Orion The Hunter, based on the online constellation guide image.” Thank you, Cecille!
Notice the two brightest stars in Orion, Betelgeuse and Rigel. Rigel’s distance is estimated to be 773 light-years. The distance to Betelgeuse has been harder to determine. It’s currently estimated to be about 724 light-years away, but uncertainties remain.
Our sun is located in the Orion Arm, or Orion Spur, of the Milky Way galaxy. Several bright stars in Orion, including Rigel, Betelgeuse, the three stars in Orion’s Belt, and the Orion Nebula, also reside in the Orion Arm. Image via R. Hurt/ Wikimedia Commons.
Stars in distinct constellations like Orion look connected, perhaps even gravitationally bound. Usually, they aren’t.
But some of Orion’s most famous stars do have a general connection with one another. Several of the brightest stars in Orion are members of our local spiral arm, sometimes called the Orion Arm or sometimes the Orion Spur of the Milky Way. Our local spiral arm lies between the Sagittarius and Perseus Arms of the Milky Way. The image above shows it.
Now consider those three prominent Belt stars. They appear fainter than Rigel or Betelgeuse, but they’re farther away. They’re all giant stars in the Orion Arm. These stars’ names and distances are Mintaka (1,239 light-years), Alnilam (1,344 light-years), and Alnitak (1,262 light-years). When you look at these three stars, know that you’re looking across vast space, but into our local arm of the Milky Way galaxy.
Bottom line: At this time of year, the constellation Orion the Hunter takes center stage in the star-studded sky! It’s identifiable by Orion’s Belt, three medium-bright stars in a short, straight row at the mid-section of the Hunter.
In Orion, how close in local distance are the closest of the member stars? - Astronomy
We present a map of the three-dimensional (3D) distribution of dust in the Orion complex. Orion is the closest site of high-mass star formation, making it an excellent laboratory for studying the interstellar medium and star formation. We used data from the Gaia-TGAS catalogue combined with photometry from 2MASS and WISE to get the distances and extinctions of individual stars in the vicinity of the Orion complex. We use a Gaussian process and adopt a non-parametric method to infer the probability distribution function of the dust densities at arbitrary points throughout the region. We map the dust distribution towards different parts of the Orion complex. We find that the distance and depth of the cloud are compatible with other recent works, which show that the method can be applicable to local molecular clouds to map their 3D dust distribution. We also demonstrate the danger of only using colours of stars to derive their extinctions without considering further physical constraints, such as the colour-magnitude diagram (CMD).
The Orion Arm is a minor spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy that is 3,500 light-years (1,100 parsecs) across and approximately 10,000 light-years (3,100 parsecs) in length,  containing the Solar System, including Earth. It is also referred to by its full name, the Orion–Cygnus Arm, as well as Local Arm, Orion Bridge, and formerly, the Local Spur and Orion Spur.
The arm is named for the Orion Constellation, which is one of the most prominent constellations of Northern Hemisphere winter (Southern Hemisphere summer). Some of the brightest stars and most famous celestial objects of the constellation (e.g. Betelgeuse, Rigel, the three stars of Orion's Belt, the Orion Nebula) are within it as shown on the interactive map below.
The arm is between the Carina–Sagittarius Arm (the local portions of which are toward the Galactic Center) and the Perseus Arm (the local portion of which is the main outer-most arm and one of two major arms of the galaxy).
Long thought to be a minor structure, namely a "spur" between the two arms mentioned, evidence was presented in mid 2013 that the Orion Arm might be a branch of the Perseus Arm, or possibly an independent arm segment. 
Within the arm, the Solar System is close to its inner rim, in a relative cavity in the arm's Interstellar Medium known as the Local Bubble, about halfway along the arm's length, approximately 8,000 parsecs (26,000 light-years) from the Galactic Center.
Recently, the parallax and proper motion of more than 30 methanol (6.7-GHz) and water (22-GHz) masers in high-mass star-forming regions within a few kiloparsecs of the Sun were measured. Measurement accuracy was better than ±10% and even 3%, the best parallax measurement in the BeSSeL project. The accuracy locations of interstellar masers in HMSFRs have been shown that the Local arm appears to be an orphan segment of an arm between the Sagittarius and Perseus arms that wraps around less than a quarter of the Milky Way. The segment has the length of
20,000 ly and the width of
3,000 ly with the pitch angle from 10.1° ± 2.7° to 11.6° ± 1.8°. These results reveal that the Local Arm is larger than previously thought, and both its pitch angle and star formation rate are comparable to those of the Galaxy’s major spiral arms. The Local arm is reasonably referred the fifth feature in the Milky Way. The “spur” interpretation may be incorrect.     
To understand the form of the Local arm between the Sagittarius and Perseus arms, the stellar density of a specific population of stars with about 1 Gyr of age between 90° ≤ l ≤ 270° have been mapped using the Gaia DR2.  The 1 Gyr population have been employed because they are significantly more-evolved objects than the gas in HMSFRs tracing Local arm. An interesting investigations have been carried out to compare both the stellar density and gas distribution along Local arm. Researchers have found a marginally significant arm-like stellar overdensity close to the Local Arm, identified with the HMSFRs especially in the region of 90° ≤ l ≤ 190°.  They have concluded the Local Arm as the arm segment associated with only the gas and star-forming clouds, but a significant stellar overdensity. Additionally they have found that the pitch angle of the stellar arm is slightly larger than the gas-defined arm, and also there is an offset between gas-defined and stellar arm. The offset and different pitch angles between the stellar and HMSFR-defined spiral arms are consistent with the expectation that star formation lags the gas compression in a spiral density wave lasting longer than the typical star formation timescale of 10 7 − 10 8 years. 
A Close up of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.
The Orion Molecular Cloud Complex is a star-forming region. Two giant molecular clouds are a part of it, Orion A and Orion B. This Close-up view comprises many large groups of bright nebulae, dark clouds in Orion A & B.
Orion A is the most active star-forming region in the local neighborhood of the sun. In the last few million years, about 3000 young stellar objects were formed in this region, including about 190 protostars and about 2600 pre-main-sequence stars. The stars in Orion A do not have the same distance as us. The "head" of the cloud, which also contains the Orion Nebula is about 1300 light-years away from the sun. The "tail" however is up to 1530 light-years away from the sun. It comprises objects such as The Orion Nebula(M42), De Mairan's Nebula(M43), The Running Man Nebula(Sh2-279).
Orion B is about 1370 light-years distance from Earth. It contains several star-forming regions with the star cluster inside the Flame Nebula being the largest cluster. It comprises Horsehead Nebula(Barnard 33), Flame Nebula(NGC 2024), M78(reflection nebula).
Ha: a total of 260 minutes
RGB: a total of 180 minutes
total integration: 7.3 hours
Dates: 14.09.2020, 20.09.2020, 07.01.2021
Sensor temp: -10° | Gain: 139 offset: 10
Equipment: Samyang [email protected] - ZWO1600mmPro - ZWO HaRGB filters, 8 Position filter wheel, Electronic Automatic Focuser - AZEQ6 Mount (TS optics 60mm guide scope with ZWO224MC for guiding)
Processing software: Pixinsight (Stacking, Star removal with starnet++ and processed the starless image separately with ABE, BN, CC, MSLT, HT, CT, Pixelmath(added the stars back), SCNR, Dynamic crop(5% cropped), Processed the RGB separately in photoshop and blended it with Ha.
Star Facts: AlnitakImage Credit: Claustonberry Observatory
Alnitak (Zeta Orionis) is a blue supergiant star in the Orion constellation, and forms part of the Hunter’s Belt along with the stars Alnilam and Mintaka. It is also the brightest O-type star in the entire night sky, with an apparent visual magnitude of +2.0. Alnitak is actually a binay system, and together with its companion are members of the Collinder 70 open cluster, as well as the Orion OB1 stellar association of hot giant stars that form part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. Contained in the latter is the Flame Nebula ( NGC 2024 ), which is located east of Alnitak and is illuminated by the ultraviolet light radiating from the star, with the famous Horsehead Nebula also seen further south west, as seen in the above image.
It is very difficult not to see Orion from most of the northern hemisphere in the south-western sky during the winter months, or from the southern hemisphere during the summer time. This is because the constellation itself is situated on the celestial equator, meaning half of it is located in the northern sky and the other half in the south sky, making Orion visible from all places on Earth except near the poles. The asterism that most people first notice when viewing Orion is the sloping diagonal line of three bright stars which represent the Hunter’s belt. For northern observers, Alnitak is the star located furthest east (left) in the Hunter’s Belt, and the one that is nearest the horizon when the constellation is upright.
• Constellation: Orion
• Coordinates: RA 05h 40m 45.52666s |Dec. -01° 56′ 34.2649″
• Distance: 1,260 light years
• Star Type: O9.5Iab
• Mass: 33 sol
• Radius: 20 sol
• Apparent Magnitude: +2.08
• Luminosity: 250,000 sol
• Surface Temperature: 29,500K
• Rotational Velocity: 110 km/sec
• Age: ± 6.4 million years
• Other Designations: Zeta Orionis, 50 Orionis, 126 G. Orionis, BD-02°1338, SAO 132444, HIP 26727, TD1 5127, WDS J05407-0157
Below are some more quick facts about Alnitak’s’ companion:
• Star Type: B1IV
• Mass: 14 sol
• Radius: 7.3 sol
• Apparent Magnitude: +4.28
• Luminosity: 32,000 sol
• Surface Temperature: 29,000K
• Age: 7.2 million years
The star Alnitak is the primary component of a binary system at the eastern extremity of Orion’s Belt. The companion star is a 4th magnitude B-type star, which orbits Alnitak once every 1 508 years or so at a distance of about 3 seconds of arc. Designated Alnitak B, the companion is a blue sub-giant, and is itself a close binary star, although not much is known about the companion of Alnitak B. A fourth star, designated Alnitak C, has also been reported, but it is uncertain whether it is actually physically related to the Aa-Ab-B system, or if it is merely a coincidental line-of-sight member of the group.
Alnitak is estimated to be about 33 times more massive than the Sun, and at least 20 times bigger, meaning that at only around 6 million years old it has already exhausted its supply of hydrogen fuel, and it will evolve into the red giant phase over the next few million years, before exploding as a supernova. Like all O-type stars, Alnitak is a source of X-ray radiation, which in the case of Alnitak, appears to be caused by collisions between globules of gas in the stars’ solar wind that leaves the star at a speed of about 2,000 km/sec.
The traditional name, Alnitak, derives from the Arabic phrase “an-nitaq” meaning “the girdle”, with Arabic variations also including “Al Nijad”(“the Belt”), “Al Nasak” (“the Line”), “Al Alkat” (“the Golden Grains or Nuts”), and in modern Arabic, Al Mizan al Haqq” (“the Accurate Scale Beam”). However, the latter versions refers to the stars that collectively form Orion’s Belt.
As a component of Orion’s Belt, Alnitak has been in the human consciousness since antiquity, and has been of significant cultural and religious significance for almost all known cultures across the globe. For instance, in some Christian traditions, the three Belt stars are known as “Las Tres Marías” or as “Três Marias”, meaning the “Three Mary’s” in both the Spanish and Portuguese languages. In other traditions, the Belt stars were known as either Jacob’s Staff or Peter’s Staff, or even as the Three Magi, which refers to the three Wise Men, or sometimes to Three Kings.
In pre-Christian Scandinavia, the Belt stars were collectively known as “Friggerock”, meaning either Frigg’s Distaff, or Freyja’s distaff, while in specifically Finnish mythology, the Belt stars were collectively known as Väinämöinen’s Scythe, and also as Kalevan’s Sword.
Orion’s corners are celestial feasts for the eyes
I have been accused of writing too much about the constellation Orion, but I can&rsquot help it. It&rsquos such a wonderful constellation, loaded with celestial treasures, especially the Orion Nebula in the sword of the hunter.
The nebula is the cosmic birthing grounds for new stars, a giant cloud of hydrogen gas more than 150 trillion miles in diameter. You can see a little of it with even the naked eye, more than 1,500 light-years away (one light year is almost six trillion miles),
In my guaranteed-to-be-last column about Orion until it comes back to the evening sky in late fall, I want to feature the four corner stars of Orion &mdash the two bright stars above Orion&rsquos belt and the two bright stars below it. All of them have their own special story.
The brightest star in Orion is Rigel, on the lower right corner of the hunter. It marks Orion&rsquos left knee, and despite being the brightest star of Orion&rsquos four corners, it&rsquos also one of the farthest at 800 light-years away. The light we see from Rigel tonight left that star 800 years ago, before Columbus sailed to America (or at least the West Indies).
It doesn&rsquot take a lot of brain power to conclude that if Rigel is as bright as it is, yet as far as it is, it must be a really big and luminous star.
Believe me, it is. Rigel is more than 43 million miles in diameter, 50 times the size of our sun. It also cranks out more than 60,000 times as much light and energy as our comparatively diminutive sun.
On the opposite corner of Orion is Betelgeuse, 520 light-years away and the second brightest star of the constellation. It&rsquos one whopper of a star, a super red giant star that&rsquos pulsating like a heart. It regularly goes from nearly 500 million miles to nearly 1 billion miles in diameter, one of the biggest single things you can see with your naked eye.
Many astronomers think that in about 200,000 years Betelgeuse will explode in a gigantic stellar explosion, a supernova. This happens to really massive stars as they run out of their nuclear fuel.
When it does happen, it will be one heck of a show as it produces and hurls out heavy elements that will be the building blocks for new stars and planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. What&rsquos left of Betelgeuse after the blast will probably be a collapsed black hole that has so much gravitational pull that not even light can escape.
Again, Betelgeuse is expected to explode within a couple hundred thousand years, which is a very small amount of astronomical time.
The third brightest and smallest star in the four corners of Orion is Bellatrix, Orion&rsquos right shoulder. Bellatrix is the closest of the quartet of stars at just 240 light-years away. It&rsquos only six times the size of our sun.
Ever get the idea that our sun is a small star? You&rsquore right!
Anyway, the light we see tonight from Bellatrix left that star in 1768, a few years before the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed by Ben Franklin, John Adams and that whole crowd. Bellatrix is a star about to expand into a red giant star, and it will be nearly as big as Betelgeuse. It&rsquos also one of the hottest established stars known, at 40,000 degrees, four times hotter than our sun.
The dimmest of Orion&rsquos four corners is Saiph, but by no means is it a wimpy star. Its diameter beats out our sun&rsquos 38 times over, and it kicks out more than 10,000 times as much light as our little home star. It&rsquos the dimmest of Orion&rsquos four corners because of its distance, 820 light-years.
That&rsquos it. I&rsquom done writing about my favorite constellation for this season. As the weather gets warmer and the night gets shorter this spring, Orion and his gang will start out the evening lower and lower in the southwestern sky, and by early May it will be out of the evening sky until November. Say goodbye to the big guy for now.
As you&rsquore watching Orion this week, there&rsquos a very nice conjunction Tuesday night. The thin crescent moon will be among the stars in the bright Pleiades star cluster. It&rsquos a must see with binoculars or a telescope.
Mapping from within
With their gently unfurling arms and ongoing star formation, spiral galaxies are some of the most beautiful star collections in the universe. But it is far easier to calculate the characteristics of distant galaxies than it is to understand the features of our own Milky Way.
"Determining the structure of the Milky Way has been a long-standing problem for astronomers because we are inside of it," Xu said. "While astronomers agree that our galaxy has a spiral structure, there are disagreements on how many arms it has and on their specific location."
Mark Reid, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts who was not involved in the study, compares the Milky Way to a dinner plate with an interesting design on its face. While the pattern is easy to spot from above, it can be difficult to interpret when the plate is edge-on.
"All of the structures are projected on top of each other, and without accurate distances to these structures, it is impossible to infer the design," Reid told Space.com by email.
To measure how far parts of the arm sit from the sun, scientists search for telltale signals in star-forming regions. As gas enters galactic arms, gravitational forces squeeze the gas to produce newborn stars. In other galaxies, blobs of bluish light that are produced by the birth of stars trace out spiral arms.
In the Milky Way, star-forming regions are more challenging to map. As part of the new research, the scientists identified bright spots of radio emission known as masers, whose shift in light researchers can measure to identify their movement and distance from Earth. Masers can be made up of clouds of gas that contain trace amounts of molecules such as water and methyl alcohol.
Reid compared the microwave emissions produced by masers to the spots of red light streaming from a hand-held laser.
"All they need is a source of energy &mdash analogous to the battery in a laser pointer &mdash and long path-lengths to amplify the emission," Reid said. "In star-forming regions, the more massive and very young stars provide the energy."
Using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a suite of 10 telescopes operating in Socorro, New Mexico, the scientists identified and measured eight new masers in the Orion Arm, setting its new length at about 25,000 light-years long. (A light-year is the distance light travels in a year.) Although measurements of the arm vary, Xu&rsquos team set the distance as being just over 16,000 light-years in 2013.
"This characterization of the Local Arm will change the image of the Milky Way," Xu said.
The new research, which was published in the journal Science Advances in September, reveals the Milky Way as more complex than scientists have previously estimated. The galaxy is typically classified as a grand-design spiral, which Reid said is often very symmetrical, often boasting only two arms.
"The Milky Way, while probably a 'pretty galaxy,' has significant irregularities," Reid said. "Based on our observations, it is clear that there are four major spiral arms and some non-symmetric structures like the Local Arm."
Further studies are needed to determine how irregular the Milky Way might be: "Without a complete map of the Milky Way, however, it is not clear how symmetric the four arms are," Reid said.
Instruments like the VLBA, located in the northern hemisphere, are limited in their ability to study the Milky Way. According to Reid, they can only map a bit more than half of the galaxy.
"We need more observations, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere, so that we can map the entire Milky Way," Reid said.
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