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Venus and El Nath
Venus, the “evening star,” flirts with the tip of one of the bull’s horns for the next few weeks. The tip is represented by the star El Nath — a name that means “the butting one.” This evening, it’s a couple of degrees above Venus. Venus will draw a little closer over the coming nights, but won’t quite catch up to it. They’ll stay within a couple of degrees of each other, though, through the middle of the month.
El Nath is about 135 light-years away. Perhaps more interesting, though, is what lies beyond it. El Nath is the closest bright star to the galactic anti-center — the point exactly opposite the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.
The center is in Sagittarius, which will be in good view in a couple of months. That region of the galaxy is densely packed — stars and gas clouds galore.
But the anti-center faces the galaxy’s poorly populated outer regions. So the view of the Milky Way in that direction is thin — you need really dark skies to make it out.
The edge of the Milky Way’s disk is far beyond El Nath. Just how far isn’t certain, though. We’re about 27,000 light-years from the center of the galaxy. And most studies say it’s about 50,000 light-years from the center to the edge. That would put the edge about 25,000 light-years away.
Some recent work, though, has found a few straggler stars even farther out. Either way, it’s a long haul. Just head for El Nath and keep on going — to the edge of the galaxy.