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2 bright lights shone over Windsor's skies Wednesday night. Here's what they were

Jupiter and Venus converged above Windsor, Ont., on Wednesday. (CBC - image credit)
Jupiter and Venus converged above Windsor, Ont., on Wednesday. (CBC - image credit)

There were two bright lights together in the sky above Windsor, Ont., on Wednesday night, but they weren't stars — they were planets.

The lights were a yearly phenomenon called the Venus-Jupiter conjunction, when the two planet's orbits, along with the position of Earth, make the planets align in the sky, according to University of Windsor astronomer Steven Pellarin.

"Two nights ago, Jupiter and Venus were at their closest together in the sky. They were only about a moon's width apart from one another. That's about half a degree, and that's the closest they got to each other," he said.

"When they get to their closest point to one another, we call that a conjunction."

Pellarin said conjunctions can happen between any planets and even with the moon. The Venus-Jupiter conjunction was visible to anyone on Earth with a clear night sky this week, he said.

Paul Delaney, professor emeritus with York University's department of physics and astronomy, told CBC News that the planets only appear close.

"The planets are in fact hundreds of millions of kilometres apart," he said.

Kerri Breen/CBC
Kerri Breen/CBC

For the average viewer on the ground, the two bright lights would have looked similar in size and shape — but Pellarin said the two planets are visible for different reasons.

"Venus is particularly bright because the clouds almost appear white to us," he said, adding that the sun reflecting off the clouds makes the planet bright.

"Jupiter is much farther away, but because it's such a giant planet — it's the biggest planet in our solar system — it too reflects a fair bit of light. Its clouds aren't quite as reflective as those of Venus, but just by the fact that it's such a large planet."

Elaina Hyde, director of York University's Allan I Carswell Observatory, which livestreamed the conjunction, said Venus and Jupiter are two of the brightest objects that can be seen in the night sky.

"Venus and Jupiter are somewhat common conjunctions, occurring about once a year, but if you have clear skies it should still be a very fun object to view," she said in an email to CBC News.

Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press
Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press

For amateur stargazers who missed the conjunction's closest point, which Pellarin said was on Feb. 28, there is still time to see the two planets.

"Over the next month or so, Jupiter is going to keep dropping until it disappears behind the sun. We won't be able to see it anymore," he said.

"But Venus is going to stay up for a little while longer. We'll be able to see it for a number of weeks now."