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.
Available now! EarthSky 2023 Lunar Calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing the phases of the moon every night of the year! And it makes a great gift.
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.
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.
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
#EarthSky #bright #planets #December