See all 5 bright planets: Wide field shot showing five dots for planets along an aqua arc representing the ecliptic.

EarthSky | See the 5 bright planets in December 2022

See the 5 luminous planets: wide shot showing five points for the planets along an aquatic arc representing the ecliptic.
You can see all 5 bright planets in the early evening sky in December 2022. You will need to start looking shortly after sunset, as Venus and Mercury are close to sunset glare. Scanning with binoculars will help reveal them, but also try with your eye alone. Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars will be easy to spot, with Jupiter and Mars being brighter than the brightest stars. As the month progresses, Venus will take her rightful place as the brightest of them all. And he and Mercury will be farther from sunset and easier to see. From around December 24 – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – you can watch the crescent moon begin to cross the line of planets. Graphic via John Jardine Goss/EarthSky.

See the 5 bright planets in December 2022

Ancient astronomers knew of five planets, which they called wanderers, because the planets do not have fixed positions among the fixed stars. These five planets – bright enough to see with the naked eye, sometimes brighter than the brightest stars – are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Starting around the second week of December and continuing through the rest of that month, you can spot all five planets in the evening sky. But you will need to watch shortly after sunset and have clear skies in the evening twilight. Due to the angle the planets take in the sky, all five will be easier to see from the southern hemisphere than from the northern part of the globe. Mercury and Venus, in particular, are close to sunset. A great observing trick to help faint objects — or objects in bright twilight like Mercury and Venus in early December — show up is to use diverted vision. Or… scan with binoculars!

Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have been visible for many months. Mars is the easternmost, a bright reddish point of light. The red planet reached opposition, opposite the sun or sky, on December 8. Thus, Mars is currently at its maximum luminosity for two years.

Mars, Jupiter and Saturn lie along the ecliptic or sun’s path in the sky. The two gas giant planets have been good targets in our evening sky for months.

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Venus and Mercury will become easier

Mercury and Venus were too close to the sun to be visible last month. They were passing across the sun from Earth. But we’ve already heard of people spotting them above the horizon after sunset. Start searching about 30 minutes after sunset. You might catch them as the sky darkens just before they slip below the horizon. Both will become easier as the month progresses, although Mercury returns to the glow of sunset towards the end of the year. But, until then, there will be many evenings when you can spot both Venus and Mercury above the sunset horizon shortly after sunset.

Venus and Mercury next to the direction of sunset.  Mercury is a little higher in the sky.
After almost 2 months of absence, Venus is back! Venus, our brightest planet, shines very low in the direction of sunset shortly after sunset. Mercury is also back and joins Venus in our evening sky. Its trajectory for December is indicated by the line and arrow in the chart above. Mercury will reach its maximum elongation from the sun on December 21, 2022. By the way, this will be the 4th evening elongation for Mercury in 2022. How soon will you see Venus and Mercury? A member of the EarthSky team has already spotted them using devious vision. They will be easier to spot from about the middle of the month when they will be visible about 30 to 40 minutes after sunset. The pair is about 5 degrees apart at the start of the month and is closest (within 1.5 degrees) on December 28th. After the close conjunction, Venus will rise higher in the evening sky and Mercury will disappear towards the end of the year. Then Venus will remain our brightest evening star until July 2023. Graphic via John Jardine Goss/EarthSky.

The moon and 5 planets

On December 8, the moon, just hours past its full phase, rose in the east near Mars as Mercury and Venus set in the southwest. The next time you see the moon near one of these evening planets will be after the December 23 new moon. By December 24, many people around the world will see a young crescent moon next to Mercury and Venus in the west after sunset. On December 25, as seen from North America, the moon will be between the innermost planets and golden Saturn. Then, on December 26, you can find the moon alongside Saturn.

Then the moon approaches and then passes Jupiter on December 28 and 29. And it won’t reach Mars until January 3, 2023.

To see an accurate view of your location, try Stellarium Online.

The crescent moon and the planets Mercury and Venus on December 24.
After sunset, the slender crescent moon is low in the sky with Mercury and Venus nearby. The trio form a nice triangle with the best views around 30-40 minutes after sunset. Once the sun is below the horizon, start looking for the moon and planets. Binoculars might help. The glow you see on the dark side of the moon is an earth shard. Mercury reached its greatest elongation from the sun on December 21, 2022. The creamy light higher in the sky is the planet Saturn. The planets and the moon could make for a great photo. Learn more about the moon near Mercury and Mars. Graphic via John Jardine Goss/EarthSky.
The Moon and Saturn (on the left side of the ecliptic) on December 25 and 26.
The crescent moon is low in the sky after sunset on December 25-26, 2022, with Saturn’s golden light nearby. Catch Saturn early as it sets after 8 p.m. local time. The pretty glow of the earth on the unlit part of the moon adds to the scene. Learn more about the moon near Saturn. Graphic via John Jardine Goss/EarthSky.
The moon and Jupiter (on the left side of the ecliptic) on December 28 and 29.  Jupiter is positioned in the middle, between the moon for December 28 and 29.
Look for the Moon and Jupiter on the evenings of December 28 and 29, 2022. The thick crescent moon is low in the sky after sunset on December 28. The moon reaches the first quarter phase at 7:20 p.m. CST on December 29. Jupiter has dominated the evening sky for months and sets around midnight local time in late December. Learn more about the moon near Jupiter. Graphic via John Jardine Goss/EarthSky.

Conclusion: You can see all five bright planets in the evening starting around December 8th. Then, towards the end of the month, watch the moon pass over each planet in turn.

For more great viewing events in the coming weeks, visit EarthSky’s Night Sky Guide

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