Christmas Eve will not be the only visitor to our night this Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), Mercury will shine brightly in the sky above Earth, reaching its height above the horizon on Christmas Day before disappearing from the sky as 2022 progresses into 2022.
During the two days of Christmas, the closest planet to the Sun will reach its highest point in the sky during the current winter evening apparition, 12 degrees above the horizon (the width of one fist at arm’s length), while it shines at full magnitude. of -0.6, according to Even in the air (Opens in a new tab).
Related: The night sky, December 2022: What you can see tonight [maps]
Apparition is the time when an object in the solar world is visible from Earth. Appearances of Mercury can occur either in the morning or in the evening, depending on whether the planet is facing the rising or setting sun.
When Mercury is in the east, it rises and sets behind the sun and can be seen in the early evenings. When it is in the west, it rises again and sets the sun, and appears a little before sunrise. Current to the east of the sun, the appearance of Mercury lasting evening, lasts from Dec. 4. until the 3rd of Jan.
Despite the boost in brightness, Mercury will not be the “Star of Bethlehem” in the evening sky. The smallest planet in the solar world will still be a challenge to spot as this appearance is not one of the best.
Additionally, acting sooner rather than later is the best bet to see the planet. The reason is that Mercury will clearly fall towards the end of the December-to-January apparition, as it passes between and the sun towards an arrangement called inferior conjunction.
Planets in inferior conjunctions have their illuminated sides turned away from the Earth. This results in them appearing as thin, barely illuminated growths.
Mercury is a planet that can only be seen above Earth during twilight, which means it is difficult to spot during this thin phase of the moon. For this reason, the planet next to the sun will be more easily spotted in the lead up to the birthday than in the following days.
Mercury is usually a hard planet to see because, as the sun is the closest neighboring planet, it is often overshadowed by a bright star. The best time to try to see Mercury from Earth is therefore at the times when it is at its furthest from the Sun, the moments of the so-called “farthest elongation”.
These periods usually occur every three to four months and last for several weeks at a time. Mercury has reached its final greatest distance and so in this apparition on December 21st.
Whether you’re new to observing or have been for years, be sure not to overlook our guides to the best binoculars and the best telescopes to see Mercury or anything else in the sky. To capture the best images you can, we have recommendations for the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.
Editor’s Edition: If you take a great photo of Mercury, and I’d like to share it with Space.com readers, send the photo(s), your comments, and your name and location to email@example.com.
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