IC 1284 | Deep-Sky Astrophotography

IC 1284 is an emission nebula located in the constellation Sagittarius. This deep-sky object lies very close to the Small Sagittarius Star Cloud (M24) along the plane of the Milky Way.

In the northern hemisphere, the best time to see and photograph IC 1284 is in the summer from the months of June-September. Although this nebula is bright, it is smaller than some of the more well-known emission nebulae in the area. 

The following image was captured from my backyard in Ontario, Canada using a 6-inch diameter refractor telescope and a one-shot-color astronomy camera.

IC 1284

IC 1284 in Sagittarius by Trevor Jones.

This image was photographed using a QHY 268C one-shot-color dedicated astronomy camera. The camera was attached to a Sky-Watcher Esprit 150 Apochromatic refractor telescope with a focal length of 1050mm at F/7.

Several long-exposure images were taken as the telescope tracked the apparent motion of the night sky using an equatorial telescope mount. A total of 48 x 3-minute exposures were collected to create the final image (2 Hours, 24 Minutes). 

For my information about the gear used to photograph IC 1284, please see the astrophotography equipment section of this website.  

IC 1284 Details:

  • Type: Emission Nebula
  • Constellation: Sagittarius 
  • Cataloged: IC 1284, Sharpless 37
  • Apparent Size : 33 arcmin
  • Distance: 5,540 light-years

In the image below, you’ll see IC 1284 sitting just below the Small Sagittarius Star Cloud. The Swan Nebula and Eagle Nebula sit higher in the sky than this nebula, while the Lagoon Nebula and Trifid Nebula are just south of this area. 

IC 1284 Location

The Core of the Milky Way in Sagittarius. Photo by Trevor Jones.

Although IC 1284 is small, it is a rather bright H II region. The light from this nebula manages to pass through an empty gap in the surrounding LDN 291 dark nebula cloud. 

IC 1284 is located approximately 5,540 light-years away from Earth in the Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way.

There are two blue reflection nebulae near the IC 1284 emission nebula. These objects are designated as NGC 6589 and NGC 6590.

deep-sky objects

Deep-sky objects near IC 1284 (Sharpless 37).

There is also a dark nebula running through this area of the night sky, this nebula is cataloged as LDN 315. 

For a more wide-field look at the region of space where IC 1284 is found, have a look at the NASA APOD image that includes the Sagittarius star cloud.

If you ever want to know which deep-sky objects are hidden within your image, check out Astrometry.net. I run my images through this free plate-solving tool all the time.


IC 1284 is located immediately south of the Small Sagittarius Star Cloud (Messier 24). M24 is a 600 light-year wide star cloud spanning 1.5° across the night sky. 

In the image below, I have highlighted the area of the Milky Way that IC 1284 resides in. As you can see, it is a rather busy area of stars and H II activity. 

Sharpless 37

The location of IC 1284 in Sagittarius. 

This photo also illustrates how light pollution and radiating from a city center can make this target difficult to capture from the city. At lower latitudes, this object sits higher in the sky, and city glow and atmospheric turbulence are less severe.


The brighter nebulae in Sagittarius, such as the Lagoon Nebula and the Trifid Nebula, are commonly photographed. IC 1284 is a refreshing change, and it includes a beautiful mixture of warm and cool colors.

The balance of intense magentas and cool blues remind me of the Trifid Nebula, one of my all-time favorite deep-sky objects. 

For my latest image of this nebula, I used a QHY 268C one-shot-color CMOS camera. This camera does not include a built-in UV/IR cut filter, so I threaded an Optolong UV/IR cut filter in front of the sensor before my imaging session. 

QHY26C camera

I used a QHY268C color camera for my latest image of IC 1284.

The telescope used for this photo was a Sky-Watcher Esprit 150 ED APO refractor. This 6-inch diameter telescope has a focal length of 1050mm at F/7.

At 1050mm, I was able to capture the nebula closer than ever before, with plenty of subtle details thanks to the large aperture of this refractor. This nebula is approximately 33 arcmin in size, so a wider-field instrument will capture it with M24 nearby.

In the framing examples below, you’ll see the apparent size of IC 1284 using the 1050mm Sky-Watcher Esprit 150 vs. the William Optics Zenithstar 73 APO


Object size

The apparent size of IC 1284 using different focal length (magnification) telescopes.

The most challenging part of creating this image from my location is the extreme levels of light pollution, which are particularly unpleasant looking south of my yard.

To make matters worse, this object sits very low in the sky from my latitude. To capture this object at mid-northern latitudes requires pointing your telescope low into the Southern horizon, which can be very challenging (or simply not possible) from the city.

Image Processing

Here is an image of the nebula before and after processing it. I used several software tools to achieve this result, all of which can be found on the astrophotography resources page of this website.

before/after photo

Before and After Processing the Image.

The final image includes almost  2.5 hours of total exposure time (48 x 3-minutes). The individual 3-minute light frames were registered and stacked in DeepSkyStacker using dark frames, and flat frames for calibration. 

After the images were integrated into a master file, several careful stretching techniques were applied in Adobe Photoshop. I also applied a select number of actions in PixInsight, including Automatic Background Extraction (ABE), and SCNR. 

I find PixInsight to do a great job removing gradients, and neutralizing the background of an astro-image.

Processing Tips:

I spent a lot of time processing this nebula in Adobe Photoshop. Those who have captured this image from a dark site with more overall integration time will have a much more enjoyable experience. 

The key to processing this nebula was to showcase the beautiful contrasting colors of the emission nebula (IC 1284) and the nearby reflection nebulae (NGC 6589, NGC 6590).

To help with this, I selected the cool blue areas using the Select Color Range tool in Photoshop. Then, I carefully refined a layer mask using the Select and Mask tool. 

This allowed me to pull the blues of the reflection nebula up, without disrupting the warmer magenta tones of IC 1284. 

selective masking

Selective Masking in Adobe Photoshop.

Selective masking can be a powerful technique to use when you want to isolate specific colors of the image. Along with boosting the saturation, you can also selective sharpen, or remove noise from certain areas of the image. 

Speaking of noise reduction, Topaz DeNoise AI did a great job of smoothing out some of the noisier areas of the background sky in my image. Again, masking the image before running this action will help preserve important details. 

You’ll find detailed descriptions of many of the image processing techniques I use in my premium Astrophotography Image Processing Guide

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