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.
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.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.