The Rosette Nebula
The Rosette Nebula is a stunning astrophotography target for your camera and telescope. The colorful hydrogen gas and embedded open star cluster (NGC 2244) make this winter deep sky target one that is not to be overlooked. If you are looking to capture this large nebula using a camera and telescope, the information and resources on this page should give you a better understanding of what to expect.
Over the years, I have photographed the Rosette Nebula many times using various camera types. In this post, I’ll share some advice on the best time to shoot the Rosette Nebula and best practices for photographing it through a telescope.
The Rosette Nebula
This beautiful deep-sky object is a large nebula located in the constellation Monoceros. It is a cosmic cloud of gas and dust that lies approximately 5000 light years away and has a flower-like appearance. The petals of this rose are actually a stellar nursery where new stars are being born.
The striking shape of this nebula was sculpted by the winds and radiation from the cluster of young stars in the center of the Rosette known as NGC 2244. This nebula can be viewed using a telescope under dark skies, towards the constellation of Monoceros the Unicorn.
- Constellation: Monoceros
- Magnitude: 9.0
- Size: 65 Light Years
- Cataloged: Caldwell 49, NGC 2244
With an apparent magnitude of 9.0, this object is an excellent choice for astrophotographers shooting in a light polluted area. There is no substitute for dark skies, but a light pollution filter can work wonders on the Rosette. The image above was captured entirely from my Bortle 7 sky using filters that block many of the common artificial light sources.
Where is it located?
To find the Rosette Nebula, look to the left of Orion the hunter. As you can see in the image below, NGC 2244 resides high in the sky close to the bright star, Betelgeuse. With so many fascinating deep sky targets in the winter night sky, the Rosette is a worthwhile subject in a busy night sky.
Because the Rosette Nebula reaches so high into the sky from Northern latitudes, you reap the benefits of imaging through an improved sky transparency. Objects that are a low on the horizon can create headaches for amateur astrophotographers in the city due to heavy sky glow and atmospheric turbulence.
The location of this object is also convenient if your backyard has obstructions like tall trees or neighboring houses to shoot over.
To photograph images of constellations without star-trailing, I use a small SkyTracker camera mount to freeze the motion of the night sky. This works best with a wide angle lens such as the Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L used for the photo above. However, don’t expect to reveal any details of the Rosette Nebula with a wide-angle lens. You’ll need a telescope with a focal length of at least 400mm for a proper view.
Astrophotography with a Telescope
This can be a challenging nebula to photograph because it appears in our winter night sky when the nights are cold and unforgiving. In Southern Ontario, the months of December through March are the cloudiest of the year, and that is precisely when the Rosette Nebula is at it’s highest in our night sky.
In February 2018 I photographed the Rosette Nebula from my backyard using a larger refractor telescope and a DSLR camera. The William Optics FLT 132 is an incredible instrument for astrophotography purposes due to its large aperture and high-quality apochromatic optics.
The telescope used in the video above has a focal length of 925mm. When coupled with a crop-sensor DSLR like the Canon EOS Rebel T3i, the Rosette Nebula fills the entire field of view. This should give you a good idea of how big this nebula really is. For a complete picture of this large object, consider using a full-frame camera or telescope with a shorter focal length.
Processing an image of this nebula can be a lot of fun. The intense colors and bold features of this object can lead to a rewarding result. Have a look at my image-processing tutorial on my where I stack and process an image of the Rosette Nebula using DeepSkyStacker and Photoshop.
In the video, I combine a number of full-color light frames and stack them using DeepSkyStacker. I then take the image in Adobe Photoshop for image processing to really bring out the color and detail of this deep-sky wonder. To add even more of a “punch” to this target, consider shooting some additional details using a narrowband Ha filter.
The Rosette Nebula in Ha
The Hydrogen Alpha details of my image were shot using a DSLR ha filter. The Astronomik 12nm clip-in ha filter covers the sensor of my Canon EOS Rebel T3i to produce grayscale images in the isolated h-alpha wavelength. This can be very useful when boosting your luminance details of an astrophoto.
To learn how to add narrowband Ha details to a color photo, please see my HaRGB photoshop tutorial. This tutorial includes a video where I walk you through the steps of using the h-alpha images as a synthetic red channel and luminosity layer. This technique works especially way on hydrogen-rich emission nebula. The process of adding a luminance layer in the h-alpha wavelength was also used on this image of the Heart Nebula in Cassiopeia.