See all 5 bright planets in December 2022

See all 5 bright planets: Wide field shot showing five dots for planets along an aqua arc representing the ecliptic.
You can see all 5 bright planets in the early evening sky in December 2022. You’ll need to start looking soon after sunset, because Venus and Mercury are close to the sunset glare. A sweep with binoculars will help reveal them, but try with your eye alone, too. Saturn, Jupiter and Mars will be easy to spot, with Jupiter and Mars brighter than the brightest stars. As the month progresses, Venus will take its rightful place as the brightest of them all. And it and Mercury will be farther from the sunset, and easier to see. Beginning around December 24 – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – you can watch as the waxing crescent moon begins moving up past the line of planets. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

See all 5 bright planets in December 2022

Ancient stargazers knew of five planets, which they called wanderers, because the planets don’t have fixed positions among the fixed stars. These five planets – bright enough to view with the eye, sometimes brighter than the brightest stars – are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Beginning around the second week of December, and for the rest of this month, you can spot all five of the planets in the evening sky. But you’ll need to look shortly after sunset and have a clear evening twilight sky. Because of the angle the planets take across the sky, all five will be easier to see from the Southern Hemisphere than from the northern part of the globe. Mercury and Venus, especially, are near the sunset. A great observing trick to help faint objects – or objects in bright twilight like Mercury and Venus in early December – pop in to view is to use averted vision. Or … scan with binoculars!

Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have been visible for many months. Mars is farthest to the east, a bright reddish point of light. The red planet reached opposition, opposite the sun in or sky, on December 8. So Mars is currently at the brightest it will be for two years.

Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can be found along the ecliptic, or sun’s path across 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 get easier

Mercury and Venus were too close to the sun to see last month. They were passing on the far side of the sun from Earth. But we’ve already heard from people who’ve spotted them above the horizon after sunset. Start looking about 30 minutes after sunset. You might catch them as the sky is darkening just before they slip below the horizon. Both will get easier as the month progresses, although Mercury will slip back into the sunset glare around the year’s end. But, between now and then, there will be many evenings when you can spot both Venus and Mercury above the sunset horizon, shortly after the sun goes down.

Venus and Mercury next to the sunset direction. Mercury is a little higher in the sky.
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 will be the 4th evening elongation for Mercury in 2022. How soon will you see Venus and Mercury? An EarthSky team member spotted them already using averted vision. 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 will climb higher in the evening sky, and Mercury will disappear around the end of the year. Then Venus will go on to remain our brightest evening star through July 2023. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

The moon and 5 planets

On December 8, the moon, just hours after full phase, was rising in the east near Mars as Mercury and Venus set in the southwest. The next time you’ll see the moon near any of these evening planets will be after new moon on December 23. By December 24, many across Earth’s globe will see a young crescent moon beside Mercury and Venus in the west after sunset. On December 25, as seen from North American, the moon will be between the innermost planets and golden Saturn. Then, on December 26, you can find the moon alongside Saturn.

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

To see a precise view from your location, try Stellarium Online.

The crescent moon and planets Mercury and Venus on December 24.
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.
The moon and Saturn (on the left side of the ecliptic) on December 25 and 26.
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. Read more about the moon near Saturn. Chart 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 December 29.
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.

Bottom line: You can see all five bright planets in the evening starting around December 8. Then, toward the end of the month, watch the moon pass each planet in turn.

For more great observing events in the coming weeks, visit EarthSky’s night sky guide

December 15, 2022

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