Astronomy Essentials

Visible planets and night sky December 2022

On the evening of December 6, 2022, the moon slides between the glittering Pleiades star cluster and the fiery red star Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus the Bull. And bright Mars shines nearby. In fact, the Pleiades, Aldebaran and Mars form a nice triangle in the sky. Mars is drawing ever-closer to its opposition on December 8, 2022. That’s when Earth will pass between Mars and the sun, and the distance between our 2 worlds will be closest for about a 2-year period. So Mars is particularly bright now … and fun to see. Finally, mighty Orion the Hunter completes the beautiful scene. Read more about the moon near Pleiades and Mars. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Available now! 2023 EarthSky lunar calendar. A unique and beautiful poster-sized calendar showing phases of the moon every night of the year. Makes a great gift!

Visible planets (evening)

Jupiter is easy to spot, brighter than all the stars. It’s high in the south after sunset. It sets after midnight local time in early December and is gone before midnight at month’s end.
Mars rises in the east before sunset and is visible all night. It’s very red now and brighter than most stars, racing toward its December 8 opposition, when Earth will fly between Mars and the sun.
Saturn is low in the southwestern sky after sunset – golden in color, shining steadily – best time for observing is right after darkness falls. It sets by around 10 p.m. local time at the beginning of December and around 8 p.m. at the end of the month.
Venus, the brightest planet and next planet inward from Earth in orbit around the sun, is climbing higher each night in the sunset twilight. By the end of December, it sets about 70 minutes after sunset.
Mercury is near Venus in the evening twilight and will reach greatest elongation on December 21, 2022. Start looking for Mercury right after sunset the second week of December. Visibility of this elusive planet improves throughout the month.

Visible planets (morning)

On December mornings, Mars is shining brightly in the west (opposite the sunrise horizon).

People often ask if our charts apply to them. Yes, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere. Not as precisely, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere. Our charts are mostly set for the northern half of Earth. To see a precise view from your location, try Stellarium Online.

Looking for a dark sky? Try EarthSky’s Best Places to Stargaze

In this article:

Visible planets and night sky guide December, 2022

December all night: Mars bright in Taurus

In the evenings throughout December 2022, bright red Mars slides among the stars of the horns of Taurus the Bull, heading toward the shimmering Pleiades star cluster. Mars is well placed for observing all night. By the way, Mars was closest to Earth for this 2-year period on November 30, 2022. It was 50.6 million miles (81.4 million km) away. Mars will continue to brighten until December 8, 2022, when it will reach its once-in-2-years opposition. Also, the nearby red star Aldebaran can guide you to a V-shaped star cluster known as the Hyades. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

December evenings: Jupiter very bright in Pisces

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, shines brightly in the early evening sky. It’s the brightest “star” in our southern night sky; you can’t miss it. In fact, it’s probably the first star you’ll see as the sky starts to darken after sunset. Jupiter lies directly south of the eastern side of the Great Square, a group of 4 stars in the constellation Pegasus. And between the Great Square and the bright planet is a pretty but faint group of 6 stars known as the Circlet. They compose the western section of the constellation Pisces the Fishes. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

December 7 evening: Occultation of Mars, a full moon, and Mars at opposition

Wow! There are a lot of exciting events going on tonight. First, the full moon is near Mars in the early evening of December 7, 2022. Then, as it moves past Mars, the moon occults Mars for much of North America and Europe. Visit In-The-Sky.org for a map of who can see it and when Mars will disappear and reappear from your location. Then the full moon occurs at 10:08 p.m. CST. But wait, there’s more! Mars reaches opposition later tonight, which occurs at 12 a.m. CST December 8 (6 UTC on December 8, 2022). That’s when Earth passes between Mars and the sun, and the distance between our 2 worlds will be closest for about a 2-year period. Also, look for the shimmering star cluster the Pleiades, the fiery red star Aldebaran and the eye-catching constellation of Orion the Hunter. What a sight! Read more about the occultation of Mars. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

The instant of full moon is 4:08 UTC on December 8 (10:08 p.m. CST on December 7)

Mars reaches opposition at 6 UTC on December 8, 2022 (12 a.m. CST on December 8)

December evenings: Mercury and Venus are back!

After nearly a 2-month absence, Venus has returned! Venus, our brightest planet, glows very low in the sunset direction shortly after the sun sets. Mercury is also back and joins Venus in our evening sky. Its path for December is indicated by the line and arrow in the chart above. Mercury will reach greatest elongation from the sun on December 21, 2022. By the way, this is the 4th evening elongation for Mercury in 2022. You can probably find both planets as early as December 8. But they will be easier to spot starting about mid-month when they are visible about 30 to 40 minutes after sunset. The pair are about 5 degrees apart earlier in the month and are closest (within 1.5 degrees) on December 28. After the close conjunction, Venus climbs higher in the evening sky, and Mercury disappears by the end of the month. Venus will remain our brightest evening star through July 2023. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Catch all 5 bright planets after sunset December 8 – 31

Starting around December 8, 2022, you can see all 5 bright planets in the early evening sky. But you’ll need a clear horizon from the southwest to the east. Start looking about 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury and Venus are very low on the horizon but will rise higher later in the month. Once you catch Mercury and Venus, then scan the southern and eastern sky for Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. In fact, if you look on December 8, you can catch the full moon rising as well, spanning about 177 degrees from Venus to the moon. Amazing! To see a precise view from your location, try Stellarium, the free web-based planetarium. Read more about seeing all 5 bright planets. Chart via John Jardine Goss / EarthSky.

December 9 and 10 evenings: Moon near Castor and Pollux

On the evenings of December 9 and 10, 2022, find the waning gibbous moon glowing near Castor and Pollux, the twin stars of Gemini. Although the twin stars don’t look alike, they are quite noticeable near each other in the sky, because they’re bright and close together. Castor is the slightly dimmer star of the pair. And Pollux is more golden in color. Also nearby is Procyon, the brightest star in Canis Minor the Lesser Dog. It’s sometimes called the Little Dog Star. Read more about the moon near Castor and Pollux. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

December 13 and 14 mornings: Moon near Leo

The mornings of December 13 and 14, 2022, find the moon, nearing last quarter, glowing in the south near the Sickle of Leo the Lion. You’ll notice the bright star Regulus as well. Regulus is the only 1st-magnitude star that sits almost right on the ecliptic, the path the sun follows through the sky. So Regulus is often near a bright planet and can even be occulted by the moon. Read more about the moon near Leo. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

The instant of last quarter moon is 8:56 UTC (2:56 a.m. CST) on December 16

December evenings: Saturn in Capricornus

In the early evening, Saturn shines in the dim but pretty constellation Capricornus the Sea Goat, which lies low in the southwest after darkness falls. If you have a dark sky, you’ll notice that Capricornus has the shape of an arrowhead. Saturn is past its best viewing for the year, so you’ll want to catch it as soon as you can after dark. Saturn sets by about 10 p.m. local time at the beginning of the month and will be setting around 8 p.m. at month’s end. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

December 18 morning: Moon near Spica

On the morning of December 18, the waning crescent moon hangs near the bright star Spica in Virgo the Maiden. Also, you may see the beautiful glow of earthshine on the unlit portion of the moon. Read more about the moon near Spica. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

December 21 morning: Very old moon near Crown of Scorpius

On the morning of December 21, a very thin waning crescent moon floats in the morning twilight amid the stars of the Crown of Scorpius. If you look about 40 minutes before sunrise, more of Scorpius the Scorpion is above the horizon, including the fiery red star Antares. Also, the beautiful glow of earthshine is on the unlit portion of the moon. Read more about the moon near Crown of Scorpius. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Mercury reaches greatest evening elongation on December 21 at 15 UTC (9 a.m. CDT)

The December solstice arrives at 21:48 UTC (3:48 p.m. CDT) on December 21

The instant of new moon is 10:17 UTC (4:17 a.m. CDT) on December 23

December 24 evening: Moon near Mercury and Venus

After sunset, the thin waxing crescent moon is low in the sky with Mercury and Venus nearby. The trio forms a lovely triangle with the best views around 30 to 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 darkened side of the moon is earthshine. Mercury reached greatest elongation from the sun on December 21, 2022. The creamy light higher in the sky is the planet Saturn. The planets and moon might make a lovely photo. Read more about the moon near Mercury and Mars. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

December 25 and 26 evenings: Moon near Saturn

The waxing crescent moon hangs low in the sky after sunset on December 25 and 26, 2022, with the golden light of Saturn nearby. Catch Saturn early because it sets after 8 p.m. local time. Adding to the scene is the pretty glow of earthshine on the unlit portion of the moon. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

December 28 evening: Mercury and Venus Conjunction

Mercury and Venus have been getting closer for a few weeks, and tonight they are closest for this month. Shortly after sunset on December 28, 2022, Venus and Mercury are only 1.5 degrees apart. Venus is the brighter planet, and Mercury is higher in the sky. Look about 30-40 minutes after sunset. Binoculars might help find the pair of planets. Venus continues climbing higher in the sky each night while Mercury sinks into the sun’s glare at the end of the month. Mercury reached greatest elongation from the sun on December 21, 2022. You can also see Saturn higher in the sky. Chart via John Jardine Goss / EarthSky.

December 28 and 29 evenings: Moon near Jupiter

Look for the moon and Jupiter on the evenings of December 28 and 29, 2022. The thick waxing crescent moon hangs 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 been dominant in the evening sky for months and sets around midnight local time at the end of December. Read more about the moon near Jupiter. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

The instant of 1st quarter moon is 1:20 UTC on December 30 (7:20 p.m. CDT on December 29)

December 2022 heliocentric solar system planets

The sun-centered charts below come from Guy Ottewell. You’ll find charts like these for every month of 2022 here, in his Astronomical Calendar. Guy Ottewell explains:

In these views from ecliptic north, arrows (thinner when south of the ecliptic plane) are the paths of the four inner planets. Dots along the rest of the orbits are five days apart (and are black for the part of its course that a planet has trodden since the beginning of the year). Also, semicircles show the sunlit side of the new and full moon (vastly exaggerated in size and distance). Additionally, pairs of lines point outward to the more remote planets.

Phenomena such as perihelia (represented by ticks) and conjunctions (represented by lines between planets) are at dates that can be found in the Astronomical Calendar. Likewise, gray covers the half of the universe below the horizon around 10 p.m. at mid-month (as seen from the equator). The zodiacal constellations are in directions from the Earth at mid-month (not from the sun).

View larger. | Heliocentric view of solar system, December 2022. Chart via Guy Ottewell.

Some resources to enjoy

Don’t miss anything. Subscribe to daily emails from EarthSky. It’s free!

Visit EarthSky’s Best Places to Stargaze to find a dark-sky location near you.

Post your own night sky photos at EarthSky Community Photos.

Translate Universal Time (UTC) to your time.

See the indispensable Observer’s Handbook, from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Visit Stellarium-Web.org for precise views from your location.

Almanac: Bright Planets (rise and set times for your location).

Visit TheSkyLive for precise views from your location.

Great resource and beautiful wall chart: Guy Ottewell’s zodiac wavy chart.

Amateur astronomers are buzzing! Guy Ottewell is offering his beloved Astronomical Calendar for 2023 in both electronic and printed versions.
Guy Ottewell’s Zodiac Wavy Chart is a 2-by-3 foot (0.6 by 0.9 meter) poster displaying the movements of the sun, moon and planets throughout the year. You can purchase it here. Image via Guy Ottewell.

Bottom line: In December, the morning planet is Mars. In the evening, the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn dominate the southern sky as night falls, with Mars rising before sunset and visible all night. Venus and Mercury appear low above the horizon after sunset. You can see all five bright planets – starting the second week of December – through the end of the month.

Help EarthSky keep going! Donate now

Posted 
November 29, 2022
 in 
Astronomy Essentials

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Marcy Curran

View All