See the rare 'planet parade' of 5 naked-eye planets in these photos by an astronomer

virtual telescope project images of planets and stars in december 2022
Five naked-eye planets shine in the sky, marked by numbers: Venus (1), Mercury (2), Saturn (3), Jupiter (4) and Mars (5). The moon is the brightest light. (Image credit: Virtual Telescope Project)

After days of clouds in Rome, the skies finally cleared for a "planet parade."

Virtual Telescope Project founder Gianluca Masi was at the ready with telescopes, cameras and broadcasting equipment to observe the five naked-eye planets on Wednesday evening (Dec. 28). The most-easily seen planets were Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. He also spotted Uranus and Neptune, which require equipment to view.


A Celestron telescope on a white background

(Image credit: Celestron)

Want to get a better look at the planets or the moon? We recommend the Celestron Astro Fi 102as the top pick in our best beginner's telescope guide. Don't forget a moon filter if you'll be looking towards our celestial companion.

"A very beautiful Christmas present from the sky," Masi wrote of the celestial sight. "I managed to capture some great images and share the view with the world."

If you're looking for binoculars or a telescope to see the solar system planets, our guides for the best binoculars and the best telescopes have options that can help. If you need photography gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography to prepare for the next planet sight.

Masi caught the five planets in a single view using a panoramic "fish-eye" lens, which gives a 180-degree field of view of the sky. He also set up several zoom lenses on a telescope mounted on the roof of his house in Rome.

Fleeting Mercury was the greatest challenge as it is fast fading from view in a bright twilight sky, but Masi managed to just capture it in the fish-eye lens. Zooming was easier, he said, "as I could select the best camera/lens settings for each planet."

Masi captured Venus and Mercury together, "showing in such a colorful sky just above the S-W (southwest) horizon." Then he proceeded through the sky, capturing each of the planets in turn and even imaging the remaining two only visible in telescope or high-powered binoculars: Uranus and Neptune. You can see the entire "parade" in the gallery above.

"I'm already looking forward to the next cosmic show to bring to our community," Masi said; his next broadcast will be previewing the Quadrantid meteor shower that peaks on Jan. 4, unfortunately during a very bright and nearly full moon. But if you miss it, there will be other meteor showers in 2023 sure to produce amazing shooting stars.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: