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Moon, Venus, Mars on December 3

Tonight – December 3, 2016 – the first two objects to pop out at evening dusk are the moon and dazzling planet Venus. But keep watching. You’ll see the moon is sandwiched between Venus and another object – this one only moderately bright. Perhaps you can see it’s shining with a reddish hue. That reddish object is Mars!

And, if you’re really lucky, you might also catch a third planet, Mercury, near the horizon, on line with the waxing crescent moon and Venus on December 3. But you’ll likely need binoculars to catch Mercury before it follows the sun below the horizon some 80 to 90 minutes after sunset. Click here for recommended almanacs; they can help you find settings times for the sun, moon and planets in your sky.

Throughout December 2016, an imaginary line from Mars through Venus points in the direction of Mercury. The only problem is that Mercury might have set by the time Mars becomes visible. In that case, draw your imaginary line to the horizon, using Mars and Venus. Then the following evening, look at this spot on the horizon for Mercury. Binoculars may come in handy! Read more.

Throughout December 2016, an imaginary line from Mars through Venus points in the direction of Mercury. The only problem is that Mercury might have set by the time Mars becomes visible. In that case, draw your imaginary line to the horizon, using Mars and Venus. Then the following evening, look at this spot on the horizon for Mercury. Binoculars may come in handy! Read more.

Because the moon and Mars stay out for several hours after nightfall, Mars will be easier to spot than Mercury. Keep an eye out for Mercury in the week ahead, for this world will reach its greatest evening elongation in a week or so.

Bottom line: On the evening of December 3, 2016, the moon is sandwiched between very bright Venus and fainter, reddish Mars. Watch for them in the sunset direction, shortly after the sun goes down.