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The Seagull Nebula

The Seagull Nebula (also known as IC 2177) is a relatively bright, and very large emission nebula found between the constellations Monoceros and Canis Major.

Amateur astronomers and astrophotographers often refer to this emission region as the Seagull Nebula, even though it actually encompasses a much larger area including star clusters, dust clouds, and reflection nebulae.

I captured the following wide-field image using a dedicated astronomy camera and an astronomical telescope. It showcases the areas of rich hydrogen gas, resulting in a photo that displays the Seagull shape in the night sky. 

The full extent of the nebula’s wings spread out over 100 light-years, which some say, resembles a seagull in flight.

Seagull Nebula

The Seagull Nebula. 4 hours total exposure.

In the photo above, you may notice the prominent bluish arc in the upper right corner. This is a bow shock from runaway star FN Canis Majoris.

The cloud of gas at the ‘head’ of the Seagull (Sharpless 2-292) glows brightly due to the energetic radiation from an extremely hot young star within it (HD 53367).

Sharpless 292, IC 2177, and NGC 2327 all refer to the ‘head’ of the Seagull, which is only a small portion of the larger nebula. The entire nebula region spans nearly 240 light-years across.

As observed in this infrared mosaic by NASA, the eye is the brightest and hottest region in the nebula, with newborn stars born about 1.5 million years ago.

I captured the following close-up of IC 2177 using a Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 telescope, and a ZWO ASI2600MM Pro astronomy camera from my backyard. 

IC 2177

The official IC 2177 catalog designation belongs to the ‘head’ of the Seagull Nebula. 

To photograph this nebula for yourself, you will need an equatorial telescope mount or portable star tracker to compensate for the apparent rotation of the night sky. An untracked image of this bright nebula is possible, but to fully reveal its structure, long exposure images are necessary. 

Below, you can see what a typical deep-sky astrophotography setup looks like to photograph objects like this. The setup shown below includes a 300mm camera lens in place of a telescope, which is a suitable focal length to capture the Seagull Nebula. 

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The Seagull Nebula

  • Cataloged: IC 2177, SH2-292, NGC 2327
  • Type: Emission Nebula
  • Constellation: Monoceros
  • Magnitude (V): 15.23
  • Distance: 3,800 light-years

Although the Seagull Nebula lies in the constellation Monoceros, it borders Canis Major, near the brightest star in the entire night sky (Sirius).

When you look into the night sky toward Sirius, it may look as if this nebula lies close by. In reality, the star Sirius is more than 400 times farther away than the bright star in the head of the Seagull Nebula.

HD 53367 is a young star with twenty times the mass of our Sun. It is classified as a Be star, which is a type of B star with prominent hydrogen emission lines in its spectrum. 

The intense UV radiation from this brilliant star light up the complex of gas and dust, resulting in the brightest overall feature of the Seagull Nebula.

HD 53367

HD 53367. 

I have photographed the Seagull Nebula using my camera and telescope for many years, using a variety of filters to create a captivating portrait of the area. In the northern hemisphere, this deep-sky astrophotography target is best captured during the winter season, when Sirius prominently shines in the sky. 

Here is another look at the Seagull Nebula captured using narrowband filters to create an image in the Hubble Palette. To capture this image, I had to collect multiple image exposures through 3 specific filters that isolate different wavelengths of gas (Ha, OIII, and SII). 

Seagull Nebula SHO

The Seagull Nebula in SHO (Hubble Pallete).


The Seagull Nebula is located in the lower portion of the constellation Monoceros, bordering Canis Major. Its proximity to the bright star, Sirius, makes this deep-sky object much easier to find. 

Although the Seagull Nebula shines brightly in a long exposure photograph, don’t expect to see it visually through your telescope eyepiece. A telescope with an aperture of at least 8″ (such as a Dobsonian) is recommended to view the brightest portion of the nebula (IC 2177). 

Seagull Nebula Location

The location of the Seagull Nebula in Monoceros. IAU, Sky and Telescope.

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