Discovery of a 21 Myr old stellar population in the Orion complex

Janez Kos, Joss Bland-Hawthorn, Martin Asplund, Sven Buder, Geraint F. Lewis, Jane Lin, Sarah L. Martell, Melissa K. Ness, Sanjib Sharma, Gayandhi M. De Silva, Jeffrey D. Simpson, Daniel B. Zucker, Tomaž Zwitter, Klemen Čotar, Lorenzo Spina

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Context. The Orion complex is arguably the most studied star-forming region in the Galaxy. While stars are still being born in the Orion nebula, the oldest part was believed to be no more than 13 Myr old.

Aims. In order to study the full hierarchy of star formation across the Orion complex, we perform a clustering analysis of the Ori OB1a region using new stellar surveys and derive robust ages for each identified stellar aggregate.

Methods. We use Gaia DR2 parameters supplemented with radial velocities from the GALAH and APOGEE surveys to perform clustering of the Ori OB1a association. Five overdensities are resolved in a six-dimensional parameter space (positions, distance, proper motions, and radial velocity). Most correspond to previously known structures (ASCC 16, 25 Orionis, ASCC 20, ASCC 21). We use Gaia DR2, Pan-STARRS1 and 2MASS photometry to fit isochrones to the colour-magnitude diagrams of the identified clusters. The ages of the clusters can thus be measured with ∼10% precision.

Results. While four of the clusters have ages between 11 and 13 Myr, the ASCC 20 cluster stands out at an age of 21 ± 3 Myr. This is significantly greater than the age of any previously known component of the Orion complex. To some degree, all clusters overlap in at least one of the six phase-space dimensions. 

Conclusions. We argue that the formation history of the Orion complex, and its relation to the Gould belt, must be reconsidered. A significant challenge in reconstructing the history of the Ori OB1a association is to understand the impact of the newly discovered 21 Myr old population on the younger parts of the complex, including their formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA166
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Reproduced with permission from Astronomy & Astrophysics, Copyright 2019 ESO. First published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 631, A166, 2019, published by EDP Sciences. The original publication is available at Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Hertzsprung-Russell and C-M diagrams
  • Open clusters and associations: individual: Ori OB1a
  • Parallaxes
  • Proper motions
  • Stars: early-type
  • Surveys


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