The Tulip Nebula
The Tulip Nebula is a glowing cloud of interstellar gas and dust in the constellation Cygnus. This emission nebula is cataloged as Sharpless 101, or Sharpless Sh2-101. The Tulip Nebula is about 8,000 light-years from Earth, and 70 light-years across in size.
In this photo below, a duo-narrowband filter was used to separate the light emitted by this deep sky object from a bright (moonlit) sky. I captured this image of the Tulip Nebula from my Bortle Scale Class 6 backyard in Southern Ontario using a one-shot-color camera.
The Tulip Nebula – Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED / ZWO ASI294MC Pro
Tulip Nebula Details:
- Common Name: Tulip Nebula
- Cataloged: Sharpless 101, Sh2-101
- Object Type: H II Region (Emission Nebula)
- Apparent Magnitude: 9.0
- Apparent Dimensions: 16′ x 9′
- Constellation: Cygnus
The Tulip Nebula gets its name from the flower it appears to resemble when photographed. This nebula was cataloged by American astronomer Stewart Sharpless in 1959.
An interesting feature of the Tulip Nebula is its close proximity (from our vantage point on Earth) to the galactic X-ray source known as Cygnus X-1. Cygnus X-1 is one of the strongest X-ray sources seen from Earth, and is the site of one of the first suspected black holes.
About the Image
The image above uses 36 x 4-minute exposures (2 Hours, 24 Minutes total integration). The images were registered and stacked using DeepSkyStacker, utilizing dark frames and flat frames for calibration.
To automate the imaging sequence, I used Astro Photography Tool to collect each 4-minute exposure, with dithering between each frame. Autoguiding was done via PHD2 Guiding, through a 60mm guide scope and ZWO ASI290MM Mini camera. The camera settings used were GAIN: 139, OFFSET: 30.
The astrophotography kit used to photograph the Tulip Nebula.
I typically shoot using Unity Gain with the ZWO ASI294MC Pro (One-shot-color) camera, but I wanted to experiment using a higher gain on a narrowband emission nebula target. The STC Astro Duo-Narrowband filter (Ha + OIII) continues to produce exceptional results on H II targets on nights with heavy moonglow. The Moon was 99% illuminated during this imaging session.
The telescope used was a Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED Super APO, which provides a high contrast image at a focal length of 550mm. At F/5.5, this telescope collected bright, well-exposed images in each 4-minute sub exposure.
The Esprit 100 is a compact, practical choice for amateur astrophotographers looking to maximize their imaging time, and avoid a lengthy setup routine.
The Tulip Nebula in Cygnus
The Tulip Nebula can be easy to ignore in the busy constellation of Cygnus. Several emission nebula targets populate this region, including the dramatic Crescent Nebula nearby (about 2 degrees southwest). The star responsible for much of the Tulip Nebula is HDE 227018, which can be seen near the center of the nebula.
A wide-field triplet apochromatic refractor telescope is a fantastic choice if you like photographic large nebulae regions like the one above. The field of view you can expect will depend on the sensor of your imaging camera. In the case of my ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera, the Esprit 100 delivers the perfect amount of magnification for many popular deep-sky targets.
You can use the Stellarium planetarium software to identify the exact field of view you will get with a particular camera and telescope configuration. This is very useful when planning your next deep sky astrophotography project.
Where is the Tulip Nebula?
In the wide-angle image of the Cygnus region and Summer Triangle below, I have identified the location of the Tulip Nebula. If your GoTo telescope mount does not include the Sharpless catalog in its object database, entering in the NGC 6871 will get you very close.
From mid-northern latitudes, you’ll find the Tulip Nebula rising in the east just after dark by late May. The Tulip Nebula reaches an adequate apparent altitude for astrophotography (30°) just after midnight.
The massive North America Nebula, Pelican Nebula, and Butterfly Nebula usually capture the attention of backyard astrophotographers, but the Tulip Nebula is certainly worthy of your time as well. I hope that this post has inspired you to take a closer look at this photogenic nebula in Cygnus.
New to astrophotography? Find out the equipment I use, the processes involved, and how to get started.