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NGC 7380 and The Wizard Nebula Astrophotography

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

NGC 7380 is an open cluster located about 8,000 light-years away in Cepheus. It rises high in the sky and can be imaged during the Summer and Fall seasons. The cluster is surrounded by nebulous gas. This gas, known as Sh2-142, gives the nebula the shape of a medieval wizard.


The Wizard Nebula NGC 7580 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope NASA

Spanning over 5 full moons, NGC 7380 was captured by NASA in 2020 with WISE, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission.


What you can see on the right is a mosaic of infrared images taken by WISE.

The cluster within the nebulosity is made up of stars that are believed to have been formed in the past 5 million years. Just a few million years is actually relatively young when it comes to outer space.



The Wizard Nebula is one of the most popular objects for astrophotographers who like doing starless versions of their images.


You can see on the left an image of the nebula without any stars, allowing you to really contemplate this object on a different level.





Starless images are easily achieved using free plugin called StarXTerminator.


 

The Wizard Nebula Astrophotography with a Dual-band Filter

September 2023


A year later, it was once again time to image the Wizard Nebula. We used a different dual-band filter from Askar, and imaged the object from our Bortle 9 backyard. We this time decided to process it differently so that it would turn out more yellow/blue instead of fully red.


The Wizard Nebula from the city with a dualband filter

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


Mount: ZWO AM3

Guiding: Built into camera

Accessories: ZWO ASIAir Plus

Processing: Pixinsight, with RC-Astro plugins. Final Touches in Luminar Neo

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 10 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 10 minutes

Gain: 26


 

The Wizard Nebula with the L-Ultimate Narrowband Filter

September 2022


In 2022, we decided to spend 15 hours imaging the Wizard Nebula from our backyard.


We wanted to see what type of result we would get if we used a color camera and the new Optolong L-Ultimate 3nm dual-band filter.


This filter only allows the OIII and HA emission lines through. It blocks all other light pollution emission lines, including artificial light. Unlike its predecessors (the L-eNhance and L-eXtreme), the L-Ultimate is 3nm instead of 7nm, giving your image more contrast, and less unwanted artifacts around bright stars.


We have a written review about the L-Ultimate, as well as a video you can watch to see more examples of images taken with this filter!


Click the image to see it in higher resolution

The Wizard Nebula with the Optolong L-ultimate filter

Camera: QHY600C

Telescope: Radian 75

Mount: ZWO AM5

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 15 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 10 minutes

Gain: 26


 

The Wizard Nebula with a Newtonian Telescope

October 2019


We used our trusty 8" Newtonian telescope and our ZWO ASI 1600MM-Pro cooled camera to image the Wizard. Sadly, on that night, we had some troubles with a cable for the guiding camera. We were forced to image this target un-guided and decided to take 2-minute exposures instead of our usual 3 minutes for this kind of object. We spent a total of 1 hour and 22 minutes doing narrowband photography, with 15 frames for Ha and 13 frames for each of the two other narrowband filters. Our camera was cooled down to -20C. You can see the result of each filter later in this post.


Below is our image of the Wizard Nebula. We are pretty happy with it although we really are a bit angry that our guiding could not work that night. We know it would have made a significant impact on the end result, and perhaps would have made the background much cleaner.


Scroll down for more details about this deep-sky object.


NGC 7380 (HaSIIOIII), with the ASI 1600MM

NGC 7380, the Wizard Nebula - ZWO ASI 1600MM-Pro Astrophotography using a Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9 reflecting telescope in the Nevada desert and with an ASI Air

GEAR USED:

Telescope: 8" Newtonian

Guiding: None (On a strike)

Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 1 hour and 22 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 2 minutes

Filters: Ha (30 min) / SII (26 min) / OIII (26 min)

Gain: 139


 

Locating NGC 7380

How to find the Wizard Nebula and open cluster Messier 52 in the night sky, map

With a magnitude of 7.2, the Wizard Nebula is not that faint but because it is mostly made of Hydrogen Alpha and Oxygen, spotting it with the naked eye or even small instruments is not possible. An OIII filter will definitely help, but even then, it will not look impressive. You will of course need to be under a very dark site to hope seeing the Wizard's gases or its cluster.


NGC 7380 lies in the constellation of Cepheus, and is pretty close to Cassiopeia's "right" star when looking at the "W" shape. The best way to find it is to start from that star, and slowly drift towards Cepheus' southern stars.

 

Cool Facts

  • Discovered by William Herschel's sister, Caroline

  • Is disappearing rapidly and will become invisible in "just" a few million years from now

  • Spans about 100 light-years in diameter


 

Single Shot & Processing of NGC 7380

With the Newtonian and ASI1600MM


Similar to our image of the Bubble Nebula or the North America Nebula, we used our three narrowband filters to capture this target and processed it with a Hubble Palette color mapping.


Below you can see, from left to right, the stacked images for the Hydrogen Alpha filter, the Sulfur II filter, and the Oxygen III filter.


The Wizard Nebula, stacked images for Ha/SII/OIII


The Hydrogen Alpha filter is the one that reveals the most gases, and, as often, the Sulfur II filter is the most "boring" of the three. We almost wanted to image the Wizard in Bicolor (HA and OIII) but ended up adding Sulfur as well just to be safe.


Processing NGC 7380 was not too bad, we had trouble trying to bring down the noise in the background, most likely because the unguided frames weren't as neat as if they were guided, but we did what we could and ended up with a great result. We might add more to it in the future, as 1 hour and 22 minutes of total exposure isn't really enough for this type of nebula.


 

Final Thoughts


The Wizard Nebula might not be a great object to observe, but it is a beautiful and impressive target to photograph! Although it is best captured with a monochrome camera in narrowband, there are plenty of images online from people who achieved great results with a simple DSLR camera! If you are a beginner astrophotographer and are looking for a bit of a challenge, give NGC 7380 a go! Make sure to add your image to the comment section below so that we may see your work and perhaps add it to the post as a comparison with ours!


If you'd rather image something different but aren't sure what to pick, check out our guides for the best Astrophotography targets for each season.



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Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter




 

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