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

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

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 telescopes.

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.

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

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


Camera: ZWO ASI 1600MM

Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130

Mount: Paramount MyT

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Accessories: Moonlite Nitecrawler focuser

Processing: Pixinsight


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?

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 Shrimp 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 download a full PDF "follow along" file that contains 77 pages, a full 1 hour and 45 minutes walkthrough tutorial video, our custom pre-sets and even raw data 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!

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.

We chose not to make this image available as a print because it does not meet our quality standards, but check out the prints we have for other images HERE!

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

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

Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter


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