I'm writing a story for NaNoWriMo, and in it there is an extraterrestrial race whose home galaxy is visible from Earth. This home galaxy is visible (or even partially visible or barely visible) in the night sky as a close neighbor to the Orion constellation. "Close neighbor", as in "within or around" the Orion constellation.

Is there any such galaxy?

  • $\begingroup$ "Close neighbor", as in "within or around" the Orion constellation $\endgroup$
    – Matt B.
    Nov 1 '19 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ The Orion constellation boundaries extend across the galactic equator, so the Zone of Avoidance might be an issue over at least some of its area. $\endgroup$
    – user24157
    Nov 2 '19 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ Matt, good question but you should clarify if you mean visible to the naked eye or visible with telescopes and other equipment. $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Nov 3 '19 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ Hi there! Galaxies are really really far away. An extraterrestrial would likely come from a star in OUR galaxy. $\endgroup$ Nov 3 '19 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Fattie sorry about that, I meant visible by any means, so the use of telescopes (personal and building-sized) is allowed. It seems other users have answered with respect to both cases, so that is appreciated :) $\endgroup$
    – Matt B.
    Nov 4 '19 at 16:08

The short answer is there are no galaxies in or around Orion that are visible to the naked eye.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has some simplified star charts for each constellation. The charts show galaxies the brightest galaxies that are visible in amateur telescopes as red ovals. The chart for Orion and the surrounding constellations show no galaxies. Of course, larger telescopes are able to show fainter objects, so you are bound to find a galaxy in every constellation with a large enough telescope. constellation of Orion

The galaxies that are easily visible to the naked eye are as follows: (There are a few other that are visible to the naked eye, but they are not as obvious.)

  • Large Magellanic Cloud in the constellations of Dorado and Mensa
  • Small Magellanic Cloud in the constellations of Tucana and Hydrus
  • Andromeda Galaxy in the constellation of Andromeda

There are no naked eye galaxies in Orion. The brightest galaxies in Orion are NGC1924 (a magnitude 13 barred spiral, 130 million lightyear distant) and IC421 (a magnitude 14 spiral that hosted a supernova visible in 2013, 150 million ly distant)

In the neighbouring constellation of Eriandus is NGC1600 (a large elliptical galaxy with magnitude 12 with an especially large supermassive black hole. 150 million ly distant)

None of these can be seen with the naked eye. They are all well below the naked eye limit of about magnitude 6 (smaller magnitude is brighter)

  • $\begingroup$ Can they appear with long exposure without any magnification other than a smartphone camera? I mean one or both M42 and M43. State of the art smartphone let open for a while can show at least amazing star fields... $\endgroup$
    – Alchimista
    Nov 11 '19 at 11:50

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