How often do you read a book for the second or third time and realize that you missed so many important parts on a previous reading? Sky watching is similar. Sometimes, we’re so focused on one object, that something nearby is neglected. Such is the case with the huge constellation Pegasus, the winged horse. It is bracketed by the constellations Andromeda and Cassiopeia, and by the trio of stars—Vega, Deneb and Altair—that comprise the Summer Triangle. In addition, one of the glorious arms of the Milky Way stretches majestically nearby.

So, despite its beauty, Pegasus has to contend with some heavy hitters for observation time. So, let’s give it its due. The brightest star in the Great Square of Pegasus is Alpheratz. Though it actually belongs to Andromeda and is the gateway star to that constellation, it unmistakably marks out one corner of the square. Scheat, Markab and Algenib are the other corners. On the western edge of Pegasus is Helvetios, a star similar to our sun. Located about 50 light years from Earth, Helvetios – officially referred to as 51 Pegasi – is the first sun-like star to have a confirmed exoplanet. Since that discovery, some four thousand additional exoplanets have been found.

But, alas, Pegasus holds our attention but for so long. Alpheratz commands us to look elsewhere. It marks the start of two diverging lines of stars, sort of a cornucopia. Rather symmetrically, one can see three sets of stars, each a bit wider apart as they move away from Great Square.

The second set is where we want to focus. To either side of those two stars, and at nearly equal distances, are Messier 31 and Messier 33, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy. Along with the Milky Way and the two dwarf galaxies found near Andromeda, they make up the Local Group of galaxies.

While Andromeda Galaxy, due to its size, can be seen on a dark night with the naked eye, it is much more difficult to find the Triangulum without magnification. It holds, perhaps, 40 billion stars, while Andromeda may have as many as one trillion stars, about twice as many as within our own Milky Way. With dark skies and a telescope, one may be able to observe the two dwarf galaxies, M32 and M110, in the same field of view with Andromeda.

As we continue to move further from the Great Square, the cornucopia of the Andromeda constellation opens to another incredible sight, the two star clusters in Perseus. Both are located about 7600 light years from Earth. Filled with relatively new, bright hot stars, the clusters can be seen with the naked eye and are best observed with binoculars or a telescope with a wide field of view. Open clusters such as these are like bundles of jewels floating in space.

From there, take a few moments to ponder the Milky Way galaxy. Follow it early in the evening to the western horizon, to Sagittarius. To the east, it courses through Auriga with its bright alpha star, Capella, touches the feet of the Gemini twins, and glances off Orion’s red supergiant Betelgeuse.

From end to end, the Milky Way is 100,000 light years across. All the stars, whether they form constellations, asterisms, open or globular clusters, as well as all the nebulae one sees at night are in our galaxy. I look at these wonders and try to imagine the beauty that most surely unfolds in the other 100 billion galaxies.

On October 19, a handful of enthusiasts made our way deep into the Wildlife Corridor off Route 82 to a dark site nearly free of light pollution. Sponsored by Borderlands Restoration Network, the event gave us the chance to observe Saturn and Jupiter, the incomparable globular cluster in Hercules, and the stunning Albireo double in the neck of Cygnus the Swan.

We found the Ring Nebula in Lyra and traced Draco the Dragon’s twisting body. Corona Borealis, the semicircular ring of stars near Hercules, along with the Little Dipper were clearly visible with the naked eye. We even counted four meteors streaking across the heavens. For 90 minutes everything else fell away. For star lovers, it just doesn’t get much better than a dark sky on a cool, crisp night.