With this article, I’ll start to introduce you to some of the more challenging constellations. Some are made of mainly dim stars; others are quite small. All will reward your persistence with beauty and charm. The three subjects of this article are one large dim constellation and two tiny charmers.
Pegasus, the winged horse, is easy to find but hard to see. Sound paradoxical? Here’s what I mean. To find Pegasus, follow Cassiopeia to Andromeda, then find Andromeda’s “head” (the star Alpheratz). You’ll see that it is one corner of the asterism known as “The Great Square”. The other three corners of the Great square form Pegasus’ triangular wing. Most of the rest of Pegasus is quite dim, and will be very hard to pick out from a suburban back yard, but you should be able to see it from a fairly dark park. In the Fall, it is low in the East as the sky darkens after twilight, so it seems to be standing on its tail. The arrow marked N on the diagram points to Polaris. I’ve also left the wing tip of Cygnus (the Swan) to help you orient yourself.
After finding Pegasus, Cygnus and nearby Aquila, look for a little kite shape. That will be the Dolphin, Delphinus, definitely my favourite small constellation. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll be drawn back to it again and again. The small image gives a closer look, without the lines, turned about 90° CCW. The entire constellation can just fit into the field of view of seven power binoculars.
Lacerta the Lizard is another little charmer. Both the Dolphin and the Lizard are very pretty in binoculars, with many fainter stars forming beautiful star fields.
Pegasus is, of course, a creature from Greek mythology. Perhaps due to its nearness to Andromeda, Pegasus has been drawn into Andromeda’s story. In the original Greek mythology, though, Pegasus was in a different story, and helped Bellerophon slay the Chimera, part goat, part lion and part dragon, that was destroying a kingdom. Bellerophon was sent to the kingdom by the king’s son-in-law, with a secret letter asking that Bellerophon be killed. The son-in-law suspected his wife of being in love with Bellerophon. Neither the king nor the son-in-law could kill Bellerophon outright, as he was the son of the king of Corinth, so he was asked to rid the kingdom of the deadly Chimera. Bellerophon agreed, and began to learn all he could. One told him that his only hope was to find and tame Pegasus. The goddess Athena gave him a magic bridle, and a child showed him where and how to find the winged horse. Captured, Pegasus was tame and brave, and carried Bellerophon to win at battle with the Chimera. The king, not pleased that Bellerophon had survived, set him other tasks. Eventually, when he and Pegasus had succeeded at them all, the king relented and rewarded Bellerophon with his daughter and succession to his throne. The story ends with Bellerophon, forgetting that all he did was with the help of the gods, trying to fly to Mount Olympus. Zeus sent a fly to bite Pegasus, and Bellerophon was thrown off. The ancient Greeks sure liked a tragedy!