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Half a dozen hardy souls made it up to a frosty observing site and were rewarded with some excellent conditions.
Seeing was nice and steady, giving good views of Saturn just a couple of days past opposition. The Cassini division between the A and B rings was obvious and subtle bands of cloud could be seen on the planet. In contrast, Mars was disappointing, with very little to be seen of the surface features so clear a few months ago. Although still high in the sky, it is getting very small now it is well past opposition.
Decent transparency revealed the winter Milky Way in all its splendour with Cassiopeia high overhead and Orion standing tall in the south. This meant that a tour of the deep sky favourites for this time of year was suitably impressive. The Orion Nebula (M42) of course, bright in binoculars and in the eyepiece, with the trapezium stars bright and clear and nebulosity spilling over the edges of the field. The Pleiades (M45) beautiful in binoculars. The Crab Nebula (M1), still glowing brightly nearly a thousand years after the supernova explosion which produced it. The closely paired galaxies M81 and M82 (M82 - The Cigar, in particular looked good with plenty of detail visible in its active core. A look at the Rosette Nebula (NGC2244, Caldwell 49/50) revealed signs of the nebula surrounding the star cluster but proved much too big for my lowest power eyepiece to do it justice.
After a couple of hours or so enjoyable observing and some good crack, a chilly east wind finally got the better of us and we retreated in search of some warmth!