Look west right after sunset any night this month and you’ll see something spectacular—three planets lined-up.

The brightest two are at either end; Venus close to the horizon and Jupiter much higher in the sky. In between is Saturn, the ringed planet.

However, look carefully—probably with binoculars—and you may see an occasional visitor to those “Three Kings.” A “Christmas Star?” It’s Comet Leonard, which appears to be significantly brightening just in time for Christmas.

If you’ve asked for a telescope or binoculars for Christmas then you’re in luck! This is how, where and when to see Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and the “Christmas Comet” this December:

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How to see Venus

Venus is the brightest of all the three planets. Currently shining at a magnitude of -4.8, it’s the third brightest object in our sky after the Sun and the Moon. That’s despite it being only 13% illuminated as seen from Earth. If you use binoculars in the early evening you may be able to see Venus as a crescent.

Venus is so bright that it’s thought that it could be the original “Christmas Star” associated with the birth of Christ, possibly when it was in conjunction (appearing very close to) with Jupiter. That happens on May 1, 2022!

How to see Saturn

While Venus, an inner planet, is always relatively close to the horizon in either the morning or evening sky as it orbits the Sun every 225 days, Saturn is an outer planet and takes a whopping 29 years to orbit the Sun.

Now shining at a relatively dim 0.7, the ringed planet is only going to be in the evening sky until February. It’s past its best but you can get a good look at Saturn’s rings through any small backyard telescope.

Saturn will next reach opposition—when it’s at its brightest as seen from Earth—on August 14, 2022.

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How to see Jupiter

The Giant Planet is always a treat in binoculars or a small telescope—even in the former you can see its four Galilean Moons (Callisto, Ganymede, Io and Europa). A telescope will afford you a view of a pink band in its atmosphere, too.

Now shining at a magnitude of -2.2, Jupiter will disappear behind the Sun in March 2022.

Jupiter will next reach opposition—when it’s at its brightest as seen from Earth—on September 26, 2022.

How to see Comet Leonard

Although it’s not as impressive as July 2020’s Comet Neowise, there are reports that Comet Leonard—also called Comet C/2021 A1—is visibly brighter than expected, just enough to see in urban skies naked-eye. However, what you really need to maximize your chances is to be outside just after sunset with a pair of binoculars, but more importantly, somewhere without any obstructions and a clear view to the southwest horizon.

Comet Leonard is skimming across the west-southwestern horizon between now and Christmas, which does make it a challenge to observe, though on December 25 it will be due southwest right after sunset.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.





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