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Editorial Office, E. Dorado. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 21 April 2024).
Editorial Office E. Dorado. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 21, 2024.
Editorial Office, Encyclopedia. "Dorado" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 21, 2024).
Editorial Office, E. (2024, March 08). Dorado. In Encyclopedia.
Editorial Office, Encyclopedia. "Dorado." Encyclopedia. Web. 08 March, 2024.

Dorado, Latin for "the swordfish," is a constellation in the southern sky, first introduced by Dutch navigators in the late 16th century. Situated near the South Celestial Pole, Dorado is renowned for hosting the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, and several notable deep-sky objects, including the Tarantula Nebula. Its prominence in the southern hemisphere makes it a significant feature in celestial navigation and astronomical observation.

astronomy constellation IAU

1. Introduction

Dorado, derived from the Latin word for "the swordfish," is a prominent constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere. Positioned between the constellations Pictor, Mensa, Reticulum, Hydrus, Volans, and Horologium, Dorado occupies an area of approximately 179 square degrees and is best observed during the months of December and January from the Southern Hemisphere. Its celestial coordinates lie between 4h 15m and 6h 30m of right ascension and -55° to -70° of declination (Figure 1).

The constellation's most notable feature is the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a dwarf irregular galaxy that is gravitationally bound to the Milky Way. This galactic companion, located at a distance of about 163,000 light-years from Earth, is visible to the naked eye as a faint patch of light and serves as one of the most prominent members of the Dorado constellation. Within Dorado, observers can also find the Tarantula Nebula (designated 30 Doradus), a massive star-forming region situated within the LMC. Renowned for its high rate of star formation and stunning visual appearance, the Tarantula Nebula is one of the largest and most active regions of stellar birth in the Local Group of galaxies. Dorado is further distinguished by several other deep-sky objects, including globular clusters and open clusters, contributing to its allure for amateur astronomers and astrophotographers. Despite its lack of bright stars, Dorado's significance in astronomical observation and exploration is underscored by its hosting of these captivating celestial phenomena.

As part of the 88 modern constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union, Dorado holds a unique place in both historical and contemporary astronomical traditions.

Figure 1. IAU chart of Dorado. Source: Credit: IAU and Sky & Telescope. Reproduced under CC BY 4.0 license.

2. Historical Background and Mythology

The constellation Dorado has a rich historical background intertwined with the Age of Exploration and the early days of celestial cartography. Its introduction to Western astronomy can be traced back to the late 16th century when Dutch navigators embarked on voyages to the southern hemisphere, discovering and mapping new celestial features not visible from their native lands. During this era of maritime exploration, Dutch explorers such as Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman ventured into the southern skies, documenting unfamiliar constellations and stars. Among these newly charted celestial formations was Dorado, named after the swordfish, likely due to its resemblance to the fish's elongated shape when viewed in the night sky.

Despite its relatively recent introduction, Dorado has since become a fixture in modern astronomical lore, especially due to its hosting of notable deep-sky objects and its position near the South Celestial Pole. This prominence has led to its inclusion in various astronomical catalogs and databases, cementing its status as an integral part of contemporary celestial navigation and observation.

3. Notable Stars

α Doradus - Alpha Doradus is the brightest star in the Dorado constellation, with a visual magnitude of approximately 3.27. Also known as 'Aldhanab,' it is a white main-sequence star located around 101 light-years away from Earth. Alpha Doradus has roughly twice the mass and diameter of the Sun, making it a prominent member of Dorado's stellar population.

β Doradus - Beta Doradus, also named 'Rigel Australis,' is a blue-white supergiant star situated roughly 425 light-years from Earth. It shines with a visual magnitude varying between 3.46 and 4.08 due to its classification as a Beta Cephei variable, meaning its luminosity pulsates over a period of a few hours. Beta Doradus is nearly 12 times more massive than the Sun and significantly larger in size.

γ Doradus - Gamma Doradus is another intriguing star in Dorado, classified as a Gamma Doradus variable due to its non-radial pulsations, which cause changes in its brightness over time. This yellow-white main-sequence star, located approximately 70 light-years away, exhibits variations in brightness with a period of around 1 to 2 days. Its visual magnitude ranges from 4.01 to 4.17, making it visible to the naked eye under dark skies.

δ Doradus - Delta Doradus is a binary star system consisting of two main-sequence stars orbiting each other. The primary component, Delta Doradus A, is a white A-type star with a visual magnitude of 4.34. Its companion, Delta Doradus B, is a fainter star located at a distance of about 0.1 arcseconds from the primary. Delta Doradus A is roughly 1.9 times more massive than the Sun and shines from a distance of approximately 145 light-years.

4. Deep-Sky Objects

Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC): The Large Magellanic Cloud is a prominent feature of the Dorado constellation, serving as one of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies. It is one of the closest galaxies to our own, situated approximately 160,000 light-years away from Earth. The LMC is notable for its irregular shape and its relatively high rate of star formation compared to the Milky Way. The LMC spans about 14,000 light-years in diameter and contains billions of stars, along with numerous star clusters, nebulae, and other celestial objects. It is visible to the naked eye from the Southern Hemisphere as a faint, hazy patch of light. The galaxy's proximity and its unique features make it a crucial target for astronomers studying various aspects of galactic structure, stellar evolution, and cosmology.

Tarantula Nebula (30 Doradus): Situated within the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Tarantula Nebula is one of the largest and most active regions of star formation known to humanity. The nebula's name derives from its resemblance to a giant spider, with its sprawling tendrils of gas resembling the legs of an arachnid. 30 Doradus spans hundreds of light-years across and contains hundreds of thousands of young, hot stars. These stars emit intense ultraviolet radiation, ionizing the surrounding hydrogen gas and causing it to fluoresce, giving the nebula its characteristic pinkish glow. Within 30 Doradus, massive stars are born at a prodigious rate, triggering violent stellar winds and powerful supernova explosions that shape the surrounding interstellar medium.

NGC 2080 (Ghost Head Nebula): NGC 2080, also known as the Ghost Head Nebula, is an emission nebula located within the Large Magellanic Cloud. It is named for its striking resemblance to a ghostly figure, with wispy tendrils of gas and dust forming the shape of a spectral visage. The nebula spans approximately 50 light-years across and is illuminated by the intense radiation emitted by young, massive stars embedded within its clouds. These stars, formed from the gravitational collapse of molecular clouds, ionize the surrounding hydrogen gas, causing it to emit light in characteristic red hues. NGC 2080 is a region of active star formation, with dense clouds of gas and dust giving birth to new generations of stars. The interplay between stellar radiation and the surrounding interstellar medium creates a dynamic environment ripe for scientific exploration.

N44 Superbubble: N44 is a superbubble located within the Large Magellanic Cloud, characterized by its expansive shell of ionized hydrogen gas. Created by the combined stellar winds and supernova explosions of massive stars, this superbubble spans tens of parsecs in diameter and serves as a testament to the powerful forces shaping our galaxy's evolution.

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Update Date: 08 Mar 2024