IC 1396 – Elephant’s Trunk Nebula

The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula is an emission nebula in the constellation Cepheus. To find the location of this deep-sky object, look toward the Garnet Star (Mu Cephei).

The photo below showcases the image I captured from a city backyard using narrowband filters. The image was created using the Hubble Palette, which maps specific filters to gases (h-alpha, OIII, and SII).

To get an idea of what went into capturing this image, you can watch my video Let’s Photograph the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula.

Elephant's Trunk Nebula

IC 1396 – The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula – Trevor Jones

IC 1396 is actually a much bigger area of ionized gas, containing the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula within it. A very bright, massive star (HD 206267), located close to the east of IC 1396A, is illuminating and ionizing the surface of the dense cloud, which is seen as the bright rim.

In the photo below, you’ll see IC 1396 in its entirety, with the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula to the center-right. 

IC 1396

IC 1396 contains the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula. 

Elephant’s Trunk Nebula Details:

  • Common Name: Elephant’s Trunk Nebula
  • Catalogued: IC 1396 (Embedded Star Cluster), vdB 142
  • Object Type: Emission Nebula with an embedded star cluster
  • Magnitude: 5.6
  • Distance: 2,400 light-years
  • Constellation: Cepheus

I have photographed the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula many times from my backyard using a camera and telescope. NASA has taken some incredible photos of this nebula, but there is nothing quite as satisfying as capturing it for yourself (astrophotography). 

No matter what type of telescope (or camera lens) you are using, the resulting image of this nebula always captivates the viewer. Here is a collection of images of the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula I have taken over the years using various telescopes. 


The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula from several vantage points. Astrophotography by Trevor Jones.

Location of the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula

IC 1396 (the massive nebula the Elephant’s Trunk lives in) has a magnitude of 3.5. It can be seen with the unaided eye under an extremely dark sky. Using averted vision, it will appear as a grey, extremely faint, fuzzy patch.

Finding this massive emission nebula in the constellation Cepheus is simple; just look for Mu Cephei, also known as “Hershel’s Garnet Star,” one of its stars.

deep sky objects in Cepheus

Cepheus is full of interesting deep-sky objects.

Given that Mu Cephei is one of the biggest and reddest-looking stars in the Northern Hemisphere, it is simple to achieve this.

elephant's trunk nebula location

The location of the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula.

IC 1396 itself can be located a little bit Southwest of the brilliant star Alderamin using the map shown above. When looking up to Cepheus, it shouldn’t be difficult to see a glowing red target.

A wide-field refractor telescope with a focal length of 400mm was used to collect a large area of the night sky at once in the photo below. I was able to record images with sharp stars right to the edge of the frame using a ZWO ASI2600MM Pro camera. 

Mu Cephei

Red supergiant Mu Cephei is the tenth brightest star in the constellation Cepheus. With an average apparent brightness of 4.08. Mu Cephei (Herschel’s Garnet Star) is distinguished by its vivid red color.

With a radius 1,260–1,650 times that of the Sun, it is one of the biggest stars ever discovered and one of the largest stars that can be seen with the unassisted eye. It is one of the most distant stars that can be seen without binoculars and is situated at a distance of about 2,840 light-years from Earth.


Helpful Resources: