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Like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, the star El Nath has a dual identity. It’s the second-brightest star of Taurus, the bull. But it’s also the second-brightest star of Auriga the charioteer.
Officially, the star belongs to Taurus, so it’s also known as Beta Tauri. And the name “El Nath” means “the butting one.” That’s a reference to the star’s position at the tip of the bull’s horn. But the star also is part of the classical connect-the-dots pattern that outlines Auriga.
When those constellations were first drawn, thousands of years ago, no one was too concerned about which star belonged to which constellation. So it was no problem for a star to perform double duty.
In the early 1900s, though, astronomers decided it was time to bring a little order to the chaos in the constellations. They designated 88 official constellations, and gave each one precise borders. Under this arrangement, El Nath assumed permanent status as a member of Taurus. Yet it’s still part of the classical outline of Auriga — maintaining its dual identity.
There’s one other interesting tidbit about El Nath’s position. The star stands opposite the direction of the center of the Milky Way. So as you look toward the star, you’re looking into the Milky Way’s thinly settled outer precincts — and the intergalactic space beyond.
El Nath is in the east as night falls. The star is well to the left or lower left of Taurus’s brightest star, Aldebaran, the bull’s orange eye.
Script by Damond Benningfield