If you’re looking for a great free gift this year, just take a look at the night sky as the Christmas Moon lines up with four bright planets for a celestial holiday this week.
This Christmas (December 25), the young crescent moon will light up with Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, and Venus and will appear to pass through Saturn and Jupiter over the next few days. All five objects will appear in a diagonal line from south to southwest.
Related: Christmas Eve sky 2022: The planets pay a holiday visit
If your sky is clear, all you have to do is look to the southwest to see the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn, some of the brightest objects in the night sky. If you have a clear horizon with no trees or buildings, you can also see Mercury and Venus at sunset, according to NASA guides.
“From the 25th to the 31st, look to the southwest after sunset to see an increasingly full moon past Saturn and then again to Jupiter,” NASA wrote in a guide. (Opens in a new tab). “Viewers with a clear view of the horizon will be able to look for Venus and Mercury in the faint glow of the setting sun, just a few degrees above the horizon.”
If you’re hoping to observe the moon and planets, our guides to the best telescopes and best binoculars have gear tips to help get you started. If you’re looking to photograph the night sky, check out our guide on how to photograph the moon, as well as our best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography. Read on for how to see the moon and planets from December 25 to December 29 below.
December 25: Christmas Moon and 4 Planets
The Christmas night sky show begins about 45 minutes after sunset in the southwestern sky as the moon and planets line up in a diagonal pattern from south to southwest.
The two-day-old moon (new moon was on December 23) will light up as a thin crescent moon 20 degrees above the horizon. Your closed fist extended at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of the night sky.
Saturn will shine just above and to the left of the moon, about 30 degrees above the horizon. Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, will shine high above in the night sky (just over 50 degrees above the horizon) and farther left of the Moon.
Venus and Mercury are additional treats in the Christmas night sky, but they can be difficult to spot because they are so low in the sky, and both are less than 10 degrees above the southwest horizon.
The NASA sky map above shows how the two planets will appear in relation to a crescent moon, with Venus (the brightest planet in the night sky) shining below and to the right of Mercury.
December 26: The moon is close to Saturn
Christmas may end by Monday (December 26), but the night sky will continue to give.
Saturn and the moon will appear close to each other in what astronomers call a conjunction. This is the last time the two planets appear very close this year.
The moon and Saturn can be found 29 degrees above the southwestern horizon on Monday night, as both objects shine brightly in the constellation of Capricorn. While they will appear close to binoculars and to the naked eye, they won’t be close enough to see them together in a telescope.
December 27: The Moon is between Jupiter and Saturn
By Tuesday night (December 27), the Moon will have moved away from Saturn, but return to its place in the diagonal alignment with the other planets.
About 45 minutes after sunset, the crescent moon will be higher in the night sky and shine between Jupiter and Saturn, with Jupiter at the top. As in the previous days of this week, Mercury and Venus can be seen lower on the horizon.
In fact, if your vision allows you to see all the planets, you will see Jupiter, the Moon, Saturn, Mercury, and Venus lined up again in an oblique line in the sky that runs from Jupiter high in the southern sky to Venus low in the southwest.
Unlike Christmas, when the Moon was under Saturn and above Mercury, on December 27 it will be above Saturn and below Jupiter.
December 28: Moon below Jupiter
The moon-planet alignment continues on Wednesday (December 28), with the moon shining slightly higher in the night sky.
About 45 minutes after sunset, the crescent moon will light up just below Jupiter and will remain in diagonal alignment with Saturn, Mercury, and Venus. The bright stars Fomalhaut and Altair, visible throughout the week, can also be seen on either side of the tilted planet alignment.
December 29: Moon over Jupiter
By Thursday (December 29), the Moon will move past Jupiter, taking its place at the top of the diagonal alignment that dominated the southwestern night sky this week.
The moon phase will not be a crescent, as the moon reaches its full (or half) moon on December 29.
At the bottom of the planet panel, you’ll see a change so that Mercury is no longer above Venus. This week, Mercury has turned ever lower, and on December 29, it will shine to the right of Venus, both very low on the southwestern horizon.
Here’s a look at the moon’s journey through the planets compatible with Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus this week.
Over the next few days, the moon will continue to light over the four planets as we move into a new year of skywatching.
Editor’s note: If you took a photo of the moon and planets, and would like to share it with Space.com readers, submit your photo(s), comments, name, and location to [email protected].
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