Updated: Oct 28, 2019

Work In Progress, as we only spent one hour on this nebula instead of the 4 we planned.

IC 5146, the Cocoon Nebula, has a similar shape to the Iris nebula, but while the Iris looks like heaven in space, this target would be hell instead.

Like the Iris nebula, the Cocoon nebula is surrounded by interstellar dust lanes and looks like it has a long tail on one side!

Do not center this target in your camera unless you are using a large instrument, because capturing its dark tail makes the overall image more impressive than a close up.

We only spent one hour on this target before switching to the Helix Nebula, but it seems very promising for a revisit!

One hour of total exposure and very basic processing on IC 5146!


Camera: Canon 7D Mark II

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Coma: Baader MPCC Coma Corrector MkIII

Guiding: Starshoot Autoguider - 50mm Guide Scope

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 1 hour

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

20 lights - 15 Darks - 15 Bias

ISO: 800

The core of the Cocoon nebula is a bright star surrounded by pink, then blue gas. You should be able to get a lot of details on the nebula itself with a large telescope, but most people prefer to capture it with its long tail of dust.

Locating the Cocoon Nebula

The Cocoon nebula is visually interesting if observed from a very dark zone, mostly because instruments need really good skies to reveal the dark lanes next to the nebula. If you do not have a large instrument or would prefer to use a small telescope, you will still be able to contemplate the cocoon as a glowing, diffuse circular object.

Locating the Cocoon is not an easy task, it lies in the high flying constellation of Cygnus, but is closer to Lacerta’s stars. It is near M39, a not-so impressive cluster which is also not easy to find. The best way to land on IC 5146 manually is to draw an imaginary line between the very bright star Deneb and 4 Lac, the star in Lacerta closest to Cygnus. Your target will be about 3/4 of the way from Deneb.

  • Central star lights up the nebula

  • Has interstellar dust lanes forming a tail, called Barnard 168

  • IC 5146 is a compact star forming region

Single Shot & Processing of the Cocoon Nebula

Below you can see a single shot of IC 5146. It does not look really great at first sight, but stacking makes a huge difference here! You can also clearly see the dark dust lanes, which can help you frame the nebula to your liking. We wish we had it more towards the left so that the tail who be even longer! Maybe when we revisit it.

As for the processing, we have not really worked on it much because it was more of a test than anything else. Knowing that we only had one hour of data, we went through very fast processing steps on Pixinsight just to see what we would get! As you can see, even basic processing can yield great results.

Final Thoughts

The Cocoon Nebula is a magnificent target that is popular for amateur astrophotographers due to its tail of dark interstellar dust. We can't wait to recapture it next Fall and spent a decent 4 hours on it! Come back to see the result then :)

Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter

Part of: The Astrophotographer's Guidebook

Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!

#astronomy #astrophotography #messiercatalog #messier #galaxy #nebula #cluster #stars #space #galactichunter #nevada #lasvegas #canon #orion #telescope #NGC7293 #Cocoon #Cocoonnebula #astrophotographybook


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