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NGC 7380 – Wizard Nebula

The Wizard Nebula is a collection of interstellar gas surrounding the open star cluster, NGC 7380.  While impossible to observe this deep sky object visually from my backyard, it is well within reach of my current astrophotography equipment.

This nebula is located in the constellation Cepheus, which makes it a great deep sky astrophotography target for late summer, and fall.  It is a rather faint nebula, meaning that short exposures will not show much if any details.

Astrophotography Images of the Wizard Nebula

With a little time and dedication, capturing a detailed photo of the Wizard Nebula is possible from home.

The Wizard Nebula

The constellation Cepheus, where the Wizard resides, resides between the constellations Cassiopeia and Cygnus.  In the Northern hemisphere, the deep-sky objects found within this area are well photographed by backyard astrophotographers.  Click on the star map below for the location of the Wizard Nebula.

Constellation Cepheus

Star map by IAU and Sky and Telescope

  • Cataloged: NGC 7380
  • Classification: Nebula with embedded star cluster
  • Constellation: Cepheus
  • Distance: 7000 light years from Earth

A goto mount such as the Orion Sirius EQ-G can make locating dim nebulae such as this one a lot easier.  After a quick star alignment procedure, you simply need to punch in the object name on the hand controller.  I have become spoiled with this ability since purchasing my first goto mount years ago.

In the summer of 2014, I photographed this object using a Canon Rebel Xsi DSLR Camera (450D).  The camera was “astro-modified” by removing the stock IR cut filter. I used this video tutorial to modify the camera myself.

Here is my photo of the Wizard Nebula using a modified DSLR:

The Wizard Nebula with a modified DSLR camera

The Wizard Nebula using a modified DSLR camera

The image has a wide field of view due to the focal length (480mm) of the Explore Scientific ED80 telescope used. I’ve even cropped the frame to about 50% for the view you see above. I’ve also heard this nebula referred to as the Flying Horse nebula. Do you see it?

This is not an easy nebula to photograph, as it took me a whopping 7 hours of total exposure time to bring out the details in this image.  The complete details of this image can be located further down this page.

I later re-visited the Wizard Nebula using a larger telescope, and more sensitive deep sky imaging camera.  If that wasn’t enough, additional narrowband data was added to further increase the details in this object.

Here is NGC 7380 using the Altair Hypercam 183C:

The Wizard Nebula in HaRGB

The Wizard Nebula in HaRGB

The version above is my latest rendition of the Wizard Nebula in HaRGB.  By combining narrowband data (especially h-alpha) you can really boost the details of your deep sky images. The method used for creating the HaRGB composite can be found here: Combine Ha with RGB in Photoshop

The true color portion of the image was shot using a simple light pollution filter, the Explore Scientific 2″ UCH Filter.  While the H-Alpha details were acquired using an Astronomik 12nm Ha Filter threaded into my field flattener.

The Astrophotography Kit used for the image above:

Astrophotography Setup

The equipment seen here includes an autoguiding setup to allow for longer exposures.  The camera is controlled using a software called Astro Photography Tool.  This setup is what I normally use when photographing objects in space from my backyard.  Here is a look at a more portable deep sky astrophotography kit.

The Wizard Nebula – DSLR (2014)

Photographed over multiple nights: August 17, August 25

Total Exposure Time: 7 Hours, 15 Minutes (87 x 5 Minute Subs @ ISO 1600)
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ-5 Pro Synscan
Camera: Modified Canon Xsi
Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 Triplet Apo

Guided with PHD Guiding
Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
Processed in Adobe Photoshop CC

The Wizard Nebula – HaRGB (2017)

Total Exposure Time: 3 Hours, 41 Minutes
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ-5 Pro Synscan
Camera: Altair Hypercam 183C
Telescope: Explore Scientific ED102 CF

Guided with PHD2 Guiding
Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
Processed in Adobe Photoshop CC

Astrophotography Notes

As I said, this nebula a very dim surface brightness.  This means that many long exposure images must be captured and stacked, before having an adequate signal-to-noise ratio for serious stretching.  I poured many hours of imaging time on this target using only true-color RGB images through my Canon 450D camera.

Wizard Nebula in Ha

The Wizard Nebula in Ha

It wasn’t until I started adding H-Alpha wavelength images to the mix that the structure really started to come forward.  Astrophotography with the use of narrowband filters has many advantages, especially for those who shoot in heavy light pollution.

Learn more about how an H-Alpha filter can benefit your DSLR astrophotography.

NGC 7380 Star Chart - Find the Wizard Nebula in Cepheus