Updated: Jan 13, 2020
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, giving the nebula the shape of a medieval wizard.
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 star that are believed to have been formed in the past 5 million years. Just a few million year is actually relatively young when it comes to outer space.
We used our trusty Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9 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 minute for this kind of object. We spent a total of 1 hour and 22 minutes doing narrowband photography, with 15 frame 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.
The Wizard Nebula is one of the most popular object 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 a free software called Starnet. It can be a little tricky to use at first but the internet has plenty of tutorials for beginners. You can download Starnet HERE if you are interested in trying it out on your own images!
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 in 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
Camera: ZWO ASI 1600mm Pro Mono
Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9
Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount
Guiding: None (On a strike)
Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR
Total Exposure Time: 1 hour and 22 minutes
Exposure Time per frame: 2 minutes
Filters: Ha (30 min) / SII (26 min) / OIII (26 min)
LOCATING NGC 7380
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. A 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.
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
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.
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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