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SH2-101 - 46 hours on The Tulip Nebula from the backyard

Updated: Jul 6

Sh2-101 is an emission nebula in Cygnus. It is known as the Tulip Nebula because of its flower-like shape and bright colors. 🌷 Sh2-101 is surrounded by lots of nebulous gas, making it a great target for any size of telescope.

Object Designation: Sh2-101

Also known as: The Tulip Nebula

Constellation: Cygnus

Object Type: Emission Nebula

Distance: 6,000 light-years away

Magnitude: 9.0

Discovered in: 1959

Sharpless 101 gets its glow from the hot young star HD 227018 visible within the Tulip. Sh2-101 is a popular astrophotography target not only because of the amount of gas all around, but because it is very close to Cygnus X-1, a micro-quasar and galactic X-ray source that was most likely the first black hole every discovered from such a source. In photographs, the bow shockwave of extremely hot gas seems to escape from the center of the Tulip.


The Tulip Nebula Astrophotography with a Vespera Smart Telescope

July 2023

We used Vespera to image the Tulip Nebula from our backyard in early July of 2023. The moon was very bright and almost full, but we used the dual-band filter to help combat the heavy light pollution.

We spent 10 hours on the target, and processed the master files on PixInsight in order to get the best out of our data. The amount of gas that was hidden and begging to be revealed was enormous, as you can see on the comparison pic below!

Click the image to see the Hubble-palette style version in high resolution!

Vespera astrophotography of the Tulip Nebula

Learn more about this smart telescope on our Vespera dedicated page!


The Tulip Nebula with a Monochrome Camera and Refractor Telescope

Sadly, in our image below, the shockwave is just outside of the frame and not visible. 😥

Sh2-101 backyard Astrophotography

On the left is a crop on the HII region, which is the Tulip itself.

You can clearly see why it got its name. The object definitely looks like a flower and is actually even more noticeable when imaged in true color with a One-Shot-Color camera or by mapping the narrowband channels in "HSO".

In true colors, the flower glows with bright red and pink colors, like a real life tulip! 🌷

Our full uncropped image of the Tulip Nebula can be found below. It was taken from our very light polluted backyard (Bortle 9) and the total integration time is over 46 hours!

Sh2-101 from our Bortle 9 backyard in narrowband

Sh2-101 Astrophotography in narrowband using the Stellarvue SVX130 and the ZWO ASI 1600MM


Camera: ZWO ASI 1600MM

Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130

Mount: Paramount MyT

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Accessories: Moonlite Nitecrawler focuser / Pegasus Astro Ultimate Powerbox

Power: Jackery Lithium Battery

Processing: PixInsight with RC-Astro Plugins


Total Exposure Time: 46 hours and 15 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 5 minutes

Filters: Chroma 3nm Ha/Sii/Oiii

Gain: 139


How to find Sh2-101?

How to find the Cave Nebula Sh2-155 in Cepheus, constellation map

The Tulip Nebula is located in the busy constellation of the swan: Cygnus. It is close to other popular objects, like the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888), the Veil Nebula complex, the North America Nebula (NGC 7000), and the beautiful open cluster Messier 29.

To find the Tulip Nebula, look for one of the brightest stars in the Summer sky: Deneb. This star represents the tail of the swan. From there, star hope to the center star in Cygnus, very close to where NGC 6888 is located. Now slowly make your way up the long neck of the bird. The Tulip lies about halfway between the center star and the head of the swan.


Processing of the Tulip Nebula

Processing Sh2-101 was... fun! After stacking all the data, I decided to start a livestream on YouTube, and processed the image live with Galactic Hunter subscribers. It was really fun and took just over an hour an a half to be done.

Overall, it wasn't that difficult besides taking care of the background with Dynamic Background Extraction. There is just so much gas in this area of the sky that it was really difficult to guess where to place markers for the process to work properly. Besides that, it was pretty easy especially when using StarNet. Luckily, StarNet did a wonderful job at removing almost every single star!

If you are interested in learning how I process all our images, you can find our PixInsight guide HERE.

What did each single shot look like using the narrowband filters?

Below you can see what each single shot of the Tulip Nebula looks like for the three narrowband channels. We used the following filters to capture Sh2-101:

  • Hydrogen Alpha (left)

  • Sulfur II (center)

  • Oxygen III (right)


The Tulip Nebula - Starless

At the end of the livestream I decided to save both the regular version of the image as well as the starless one.

Below is the image of the Tulip Nebula with all the stars removed. It looks pretty great mostly because the details in the interacting gases seem to pop out much more!

The Tulip Nebula Starless with Starnet

To learn how to activate and use StarNet on PixInsight, check out our tutorial!


Final Thoughts

Sh2-101 is a beautiful object in a part of the sky that is made up of insane amounts of nebulosity. The Tulip Nebula is fun to process, and can be very pretty if you are able to bring out the bright colors within it. With more than 46 hours of exposure, I wish the image I got was brighter and more colorful, but I believe it lacked some OIII data to really make the blues pop out more.

Have you captured the Tulip Nebula? Attach your image in the comments and let us know your acquisition details!

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Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter

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