A couple of nights ago, before work and lack of sleep took me away from my blog, I had a long thoughtful session of naked eye astronomy under a clear sky, Sirius blazing white from amongst the birdfeeders on the baby oak tree, Orion's belt skirting the rooves of the crumbling 19th century outhouses that belong to my downstairs neighbours.
Mars was visible twixt the Sycamore branches, this late at night always making me worry about dreaming of HG Wells style martian invasion and blood drainings - Damn you Jeff Wayne! - as has happened on a fair few occasions.
My attention was drawn to the left of Gemini's bright twins Castor and Pollux, into the faint constellation of Cancer.
I tested myself out on its Messier Objects.
The famous Messier 44 Beehive Cluster is easily visible to the naked eye as a misty patch almost as large as the full moon. I'm able to spot it easily these days, I must have better skies than my old house. Binculars resolve it beautifully of course.
Where I was really trying my eyesight was out was in seesing if I could spot the less well known Messier 67, which doesn't resolve in my 10x50s really. I think not. Above the head of the Hydra and slightly eastwards. I think I was convining myself I could see it, but my eyes were playing tricks. Wiki has its mag at 6.1 so under urban skies, not a chance in hell!
But as ever, I enjoyed my stargazing, despite the cold.