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IC 1805 - The Heart Nebula | Astrophotography Tips & Pictures

Updated: May 17, 2023

IC 1805 is a huge nebula located 7,500 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. It is full of Hydrogen Alpha and overall pretty faint at a magnitude of 18.3. Because of its size, the Heart Nebula is best photographed using a small telescope (480mm or smaller) so that you can fit the entire object in your frame.

Object Designation: IC1805, Sharpless 2-190

Also known as: The Heart Nebula, The Running Dog Nebula

Constellation: Cassiopeia

Object Type: Emission Nebula

Distance: 7,500 light-years away

Magnitude: 18.3

Discovered in: November 3 1787 by William Herschel

We have captured the Heart Nebula a few times over the years, and we will show you our favorite attempts in this post!


The Heart Nebula from the City with an OSC Camera and Duoband Filter

November 2022

Below is our latest photograph of the Heart Nebula. This was taken from our Bortle 9 backyard in Las Vegas using a One-Shot-Color camera, and the affordable Askar 6nm Color Magic duoband filter.

We spent several nights capturing this object from home, for a total integration time of 25 hours!

small refractor telescope in backyard
The rig used to capture this image

This was easy because as we explain in our video, our new backyard astrophotography setup is very small and portable and so we just carried the entire rig outside on each clear night.

All parts and cables stayed attached, and all we had to do was polar align the mount before launching the series of pictures.

We did not center the target on purpose, because we wanted to see if we could capture some of the gas on the side. The final image does have a couple of flaws, like slight gradients, blown-out areas in the Fish Head and core regions, and some red stars, but it overall looks great and shows exactly what we wanted it to show: all the faint gases expelling from the side of the nebula.

Heart Nebula astrophotography with color camera and narrowband filter from city

Want to process your images following our own workflow? Access our PixInsight Guide!

Camera: QHY600C

Telescope: Askar FRA500 with f/3.9 Reducer

Mount: ZWO AM5

Processing: Pixinsight, with RC-Astro plugins


Total Exposure Time: 25 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 10 minutes

Gain: 26


The Heart Nebula with a Small Telescope and Monochrome Camera

June 2019

We spent 4 hours on this object at f/5. We are usually used to imaging at f/3.9, but since there is not a huge difference between these two numbers, we felt like 4 hours was enough. We're curious as to how much more gas would have shown if we did spend more time on it. Either way, we wouldn't have been able to anyway since we were freezing our butts off in the desert and desperately wanted to go home.

IC 1805 in Narrowband with the ASI 1600MM

The Heart Nebula IC 1805 in Cassiopeia - ZWO ASI 1600MM-Pro Astrophotography the Nevada desert


Telescope: Meade 70mm APO Astrograph

Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 4 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

Filters: Ha (2 hours) / SII (1 hour) / OIII (1 hour)

Gain: 139


How to find the Heart Nebula?

How to find the open Cluster Messier 71 in Sagitta in the night sky, map

IC 1805 can be found just to the West of Cassiopeia’s “W” shape, and lies in the Perseus arm of our Milky Way galaxy.

Because of the faint hydrogen alpha present in most of the nebula, the Heart is not really visible to the naked eye. You also should not expect to spot it with binoculars. Under very dark skies and with the correct filter, you might be able to see it with a good telescope. The cluster in the center of the nebula, on the other hand, can be observed quite easily with binoculars.

If you still cannot find it, try pointing your DSLR camera with a wide enough lens (we recommend 50mm) towards that area of the sky. A long exposure shot should reveal gas either from the Heart Nebula or the Soul Nebula located just next to it.

The best time to observe and photograph the Heart Nebula is in Fall, although it is available most of the year. It is not far from some other popular objects like the ones shown above. These are the Soul Nebula, the Double Cluster in Perseus, and the Pacman Nebula. The Heart Nebula is also close to the cluster M103, the Bubble Nebula, and the planetary nebula M76


The Heart Nebula Information

IC 1805 is approximately 7,500 light-years away from Earth. It has a radius of 100 light-years and an apparent size of 2 degrees, which spans the size of four full moons. It is made up of ionized hydrogen, ionized oxygen, sulfur gasses, and dark dust lanes. The hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur gasses make the Heart Nebula a great narrowband target.

The Heart Nebula is a great target for beginner astrophotographers, thanks to its large size and overall brightness. Even though the nebula itself is faint, most of its gasses are easily revealed in pictures, and the area near the core where the star cluster is located is very obvious.

In the video above, we talk about the equipment we used to capture the Heart Nebula from home, and tell you more about this beautiful object as we spend 25 hours gathering data.


Melotte 15 in the Core of the Heart Nebula

With a very small telescope and full-frame camera, or DSLR lens, you might also be able to include its neighbor, the Soul Nebula. IC 1848 is very similar to the Heart Nebula as it is also large and filled with Hydrogen Alpha gas. The two of them make for a fantastic wide-field image. If you would like to get both nebulae in the same frame but do not have a good camera lens or very wide telescope, you can also achieve this by doing a 4 or 8-panel mosaic.

Melotte 15 in the Heart Nebula in narrowband Astrophotography
Melotte 15 taken by Steve R Cooper

At the core of the Heart Nebula is a bright open cluster known as Melotte 15. The stars within the cluster are 1.5 million years old, which actually is pretty young in the life of stars.

This is a great target to photograph if you do not own a small telescope. The beautiful pillar-like nebulosity looks like it is dancing with the stars that surround it.

We have not attempted to image this cluster by itself yet, but it is on our To-Do list for sure! We will update this post and add our image as soon as we photographed it.

The impressive picture visible on the left was taken by Steve R Cooper in narrowband.

Most new stars in the Heart Nebula are formed in Melotte 15, the Heart's center.


IC 1795 - The Fish Head Nebula

Melotte 15 is not the only deep sky object within the Heart Nebula that you can concentrate on if you only own a medium size or large telescope. Another beautiful target available for your setup is IC 1795, or the Fish Head Nebula! 🐠