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NGC 1333 - The Embryo Nebula in Perseus - Astrophotography


NGC 1333 is a reflection nebula in the constellation Perseus, it is also known as the Embryo Nebula. This is a bright but small object surrounded by thick interstellar dust clouds, with some of them being so thick that they completely hide the light behind them. NGC 1333 is a good target for astrophotographers who are looking to transition from easy beginner objects to more difficult targets.


Object Designation: NGC 1333, LBN 741

Also Known As: The Embryo Nebula

Constellation: Perseus

Object Type: Reflection Nebula

Distance: 967 light-years away

Magnitude: 5.6

Discovery: Eduard Schönfeld in 1855


We've only captured NGC 1333 once in 10 years, and we waited until we had our telescope under the darkest of skies as the plan was to get a lot of the dust clouds around the object to show up in our picture.


In the northern hemisphere, the Embryo Nebula starts to rise at a good time in October and stays high until January. This means the best time to photograph NGC 1333 is in the Winter season.


 

NGC 1333 Astrophotography from a Dark Site

December 2023


Antoine and RASA 8 at Astronomy Acres
Antoine and RASA 8 at Astronomy Acres

This is our first light from Astronomy Acres, a remote observatory under the Bortle 1 skies of New Mexico.


Because this would be our very first image from there, we decided to take our time and spend a total of 31.5 hours using our fast RASA f/2 telescope. You can imagine how incredible the data is, coming from Bortle 1 skies using f/2 optics!


We'll have a video about installing this rig at the remote observatory. Astronomy Acres has piers available starting at $500/month and is the most affordable remote telescope hosting facility we know in the United States.



As you can see in the picture below, the Embryo nebula sits in the center of the frame, and is completely surrounded by an incredible amount of dust of various thicknesses. This dust is known as ISM, or Interstellar Medium. These molecular clouds fill up some of the areas of our night sky including most of the constellation Perseus where NGC 1333 is located.


Dark skies are useful if you intend on capturing this dust, due to how dim some of the filaments are. Some faint hints of hydrogen alpha are present, near the bottom left, top, and mid left side.


Click the image to see it in high resolution!

NGC 1333 astrophotography with RASA 8

Download our practice data for NGC1333 and see what you can achieve!


GEAR USED:

Telescope: Celestron RASA 8

Mount: 10Micron GM2000 HPS

Processing: Pixinsight, with R-C Astro plugins. Final touches in Skylum Luminar Neo

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 31.5 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 300 seconds

Filters: N/A

Gain: 100

 

How to Find NGC 1333

Map to find NGC1333 in Perseus

NGC 1333 cannot be seen with the naked eye, but can be spotted with large binoculars or a small telescope from a dark site. With a telescope that has a large aperture, you will be able to spot Barnard 1 and Barnard 2, a couple of dark nebulae. It is located close to other popular deep-sky objects, such as the California Nebula, the Pleiades cluster, and the Messier 34 open cluster.


The Embryo nebula can be found about 967 light-years away in the constellation Perseus, although it sits on the extreme edge, away from the bright stars making up Perseus. You'll find NGC 1333 close to the constellations Aries and Triangulum. The best way to find it is to spot the bright star on the south side of Perseus, and to slowly make your way towards the closest bright star of the Aries constellation. NGC 1333 can be spotted exactly halfway between these two bright stars.


The best time to observe and photograph NGC 1333 is in Winter.

 

NGC 1333 by NASA and ESO


The Embryo nebula is part of the Perseus Molecular Cloud, which is why you can see so much dust in the background of our image. NGC 1333 is one of the best-studied regions of active star formation, and is fairly young compared to others. Within the nebula lie several star clusters which help make the gasses in the vicinity bright and colorful.


NGC 1333, with Barnard 1 and Barnard 2, is part of the L1450 dark cloud, also known as Barnard 205.


On April 20, 2023, NASA released a beautiful picture of NGC 1333, or rather a small section showing a very active star-forming region within the nebula. The image was released for the Hubble Space Telescope's 33rd anniversary since its launch on April 24, 1990.


NGC 1333 by the Hubble Space Telescope
NGC 1333 by the Hubble Space Telescope

Although the HST was aiming at what is considered a highly active star-forming section of NGC 1333, most of the activity, which NASA describes as "star birthing firestorm" is hidden behind the thick dust. The dust clouds get thicker near the bottom half of the image, as you can see in the black areas which are not empty space but dust.


The bright blue star at the top of the image is believed to expel extreme stellar winds, which interact with the dust clouds all around.


The red area at the bottom of the image is like a hole in the clouds. This is ionized hydrogen gas, created by extremely thin jets that were expelled from newly forming stars just out of the frame. NASA states that these jets occur on each side of the new stars, and are like a star's birth announcement.



Another impressive photograph of NGC 1333 by NASA is this one taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. This was taken in infrared, and shows a wide field of view on the nebula/


NGC 1333 in Infrared - NASA
NGC 1333 in Infrared - NASA

 

Single Shot and Processing of NGC 1333


Below you can see what a single 5-minute shot of NGC 1333 looks like, taken from a Bortle 1 site with RASA f/2 telescope. The nebula itself is well visible, especially the are just around the bright blue star. The most interesting thing in our opinion though, is that you can see hints of dark clouds all of the picture, especially on the right half side!


This is of course very promising for a single shot, and tells you right away that it will be an impressive image once all the data is stacked!


Single 5-minute shot of NGC1333

Processing NGC 1333 is overall easy and fun. The nebula itself is easy to bring up, and you simply need to be careful not to blow up the brightest region when trying to reveal the dark dust lanes all around.


Good iterations of Generalized Hyperbolic Stretch will be crucial in getting a nice all-around image with both a clean nebula and nice defined dust clouds.


Processing NGC 1333 on PixInsight

If you'd like to download the master file and process the data yourself, you can get our practice dataset immediately. We will soon also have a premium version that will include the full-resolution master file along with a 4K walkthrough processing video. This will teach you exactly how to get a result similar to ours. You can find the premium dataset for a similar target, M78, below:




 


NGC 1333 FAQ


  • In which constellation is NGC 1333 located?

You can find the Embryo Nebula in the constellation Perseus.


  • How big is NGC 1333?

The nebula has a diameter of 15 light-years. From Earth, it has an apparent size of 3 by 6 arc minutes.


  • How far is NGC 1333

The Embryo Nebula is located about 967 light-years away from Earth.


  • How long should my exposure times be when photographing NGC 1333?

We suggest doing 10-minute exposures for this object although, if like us, you are using a very fast telescope (f/2) from a Bortle 1 site, 5-minute exposures will be more than enough.


  • Should I use a filter to image the Embryo Nebula?

NGC 1333 is a broadband target, with slight hints of Hydrogen Alpha. You do not need a filter for this target unless you really want to bring up the HA regions which are very small (within the nebula) or large but faint (around the nebula). The best thing you can do for this target is to use a fast telescope from a dark site.


 

NGC 1333 Astrophotography - Final Thoughts


The Embryo Nebula is one of the best targets in the Winter sky for beginner astrophotographers looking for a more challenging object than what they're used to. NGC 1333 itself is not difficult to capture or process, but getting all the dust lanes to show up on your image is! You will need a dark sky, a fast telescope, and good processing skills to reveal all the dust around the nebula.



Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!


Clear Skies,

Antoine & Dalia Grelin

Galactic Hunter

 

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