With the crisp, crunch of autumn leaves cushioning your feet on this planet we call Earth, we behold the autumn evening skies. The constellation scene is dominated by a flying horse, followed by a maiden who never seems to catch up, a group of dim but always interesting constellations with a theme of the sea, and a solitary stellar beacon shining low.
In mid-evening, step out and look high up in the south (assuming you are in the mid-northern latitudes as we have in the continental United States). You’ll see four stars marking a large square- actually a rectangle. This is known as the “Great Square” of Pegasus.
Pegasus is a mythological flying horse. Depending on how you connect the stars to make your picture, the square has been imagined as the wings. The constellation Andromeda, the Maiden, immediately follows (at left, or eastward). In fact, the top left star of the Great Square is actually in Andromeda; star atlases show the constellation boundary lines, and this star is just outside of the Pegasus constellation.
If you include the stars of Andromeda with Pegasus, in my imagination (and probably many others), the whole thing looks like a horse (minus wings), although upside down as we see it north of the equator! I should mention that other stars of Pegasus are to the right (west) of the Great Square; these can be traced to imagine the horse’s neck, head and front legs.
Naturally, the stars know nothing of our imagination, and shine on despite our admiration or lack thereof. It’s all a matter of our perspective. Constellations are handy for us to remember placement of stars, and keep us enjoying the heavens all the more. As seen from much farther into the galaxy, the constellations we know become lost, since the stars are at widely varying distances!
How many stars can you see with eyes alone, within the Great Square? There are two that are easily seen. You need a very clear, very dark sky to see more.
Within Andromeda is the famous galaxy by the same name, also known as M31. You can see the Andromeda Galaxy quite easily with the naked eye, as a dim, oval patch. It is very interesting in binoculars, showing the bright central area and a long faint ellipse, which make up the galaxy’s spiral arms full of stars and dusty nebulosity. Stop to ponder that M31 is about twice the size of the Milky Way Galaxy! Can you imagine how many stars, and planets around those stars exist there? Might any of them have some race of intelligent life, looking back at us with the same questions?
Below Pegasus- further south, are the dim constellations Aquarius the Water Bearer, Pisces the Fishes, and Pisces Austrinus, the Southern Fish. To the east is the large group, Cetus the Whale.
The lone bright star in this area of the sky is Fomalhaut, shining in the Southern Fish like a gleaming eye.
Looking northward on October evenings, the Big Dipper is low on the horizon; up high in the north is the “W” shaped Cassiopeia constellation, the “W” on its side. Right between these groups is the North Star (Polaris) which hardly seems to move at all during the night or through the year. This is close to where the Earth’s axis of rotation points, around which the whole sky revolves as seen from our perch on the place we call Earth.
First quarter Moon was on Oct. 27; full Moon is on Nov. 10.
Keep looking up!

— Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at news@neagle.com. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.