Are the Cylons and the Galactica fleet getting closer to Earth?
Many eagle-eyed observers noted the above image taken from the ep, "The Ties That Bind" that shows the constellation Orion in the background when the Cylon base ships arrive to... continue their discussions with each other (if you will.)
An analysis on the Battlestar Wiki page notes:
# The constellation Orion appears in this episode. It is clearly visible in the background of the basestars shortly before Cavil's ships begin to attack, and may be visible when Cally looks out the window in the launch tube shortly before she is confronted by Foster. This would indicate that both fleets are relatively close to Earth. However, for them to see Orion in the same two-dimensional configuration as from Earth, they would have to be within a few light years of Sol and in a relatively narrow corridor between it and Orion.
# Given that, astrographers should now notice that their observations and the rough map found on Kobol in the Tomb of Athena are beginning to match. On Kobol, the crew realized that Earth lies in a straight line from the Twelve Colonies to the Lagoon nebula, and that the constellations they see in the planetarium appear like that when viewed from Earth.
LiveJournal user Shaun dukeblack, who says, "I'm no longer an astronomer... I switched to theoretical physics." at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, wrote a detailed examination of the sighting of Orion on the BSG blog:
Perspective is very important. Many of the stars in Orion are very far away from us. However, Bellatrix (the top right or 'shoulder' star) is not so far from Earth in comparison to the others of Orion. The further from Earth one travels, the more the closest stars will seem to move. The effect of perspective is that nearer stars will appear to converge to a 'vanishing point' much more quickly than the more distant stars. In effect, this means Bellatrix migrates 'downwards' (in the image) towards the stars of Orion's belt much more quickly than any of the other 'apex' stars (Betelgeuse, Rigel and Saiph). Because the stars of Orion are not all an identical distance from Earth, as one travels away from the constellation, the shape will both shrink in size AND become distorted.
Another point to note is that in order for these stars to retain the coherence as the familiar Orion, one would need to be approaching Earth in such a direction as to keep the stars in their correct places. From this, drawing an imaginary line through Earth towards Orion and looking back along it will give us an indication of the direction from which the fleets are approaching the Solar System.
Keeping all these points in mind, and the assumption this is a deliberate inclusion in the show to indicate the fleets' proximity to Earth, I have formed the following conclusions:
* The Colonial and Cylon fleets must be within 20 light years of the Solar System. Beyond that, the shape of Orion (particularly due to the troublesome Bellatrix) becomes too distorted to match what is shown in the episode.
* The Colonial and Cyclon fleets are travelling towards the Solar System from the direction of the constellation of Ophiuchus! For those of you in the know, Ophiuchus is the thirteenth sign of the Zodiac. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here is its Wikipedia entry.
* Sol MUST be somewhere around the region of the lower half of Orion. Oddly enough, on the scene where the Cylon Basestars jump in to shot, before the camera pans up, the left half of that background star field must contain Earth.