Cape Canaveral (US), Dec 20: Jupiter and Saturn will merge in the night sky Monday, appearing closer to one another than they have since Galileo's time in the 17th century.

Astronomers say so-called conjunctions between the two largest planets in our solar system aren't particularly rare.

Jupiter passes its neighbour Saturn in their respective laps around the sun every 20 years.

But the one coming up is especially close: Jupiter and Saturn will be just one-tenth of a degree apart from our perspective or about one-fifth the width of a full moon.

They should be easily visible around the world a little after sunset, weather permitting.

Toss in the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest night of the year and the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere and this just-in-time-for-Christmas spectacle promises to be one of the greatest of Great Conjunctions.

What is most rare is a close conjunction that occurs in our nighttime sky," said Vanderbilt University's David Weintraub, an astronomy professor.

"I think it's fair to say that such an event typically may occur just once in any one person's lifetime, and I think 'once in my lifetime' is a pretty good test of whether something merits being labeled as rare or special.

It will be the closest Jupiter-Saturn pairing since July 1623, when the two planets appeared a little nearer.

This conjunction was almost impossible to see, however, because of its closeness to the sun.

Considerably closer and in plain view was the March 1226 conjunction of the two planets when Genghis Khan was conquering Asia.

Monday's conjunction will be the closest pairing that is visible since way back then.

Saturn and Jupiter have been drawing closer in the south-southwest sky for weeks. Jupiter bigger and closer to Earth is vastly brighter.

I love watching them come closer and closer to each other and the fact that I can see it with my naked eyes from my back porch! Virginia Tech astronomer Nahum Arav said in an email.

To see it, be ready shortly after sunset Monday, looking to the southwest fairly low on the horizon.

Saturn will be the smaller, fainter blob at Jupiter's upper right. Binoculars will be needed to separate the two planets.

Despite appearances, Jupiter and Saturn will actually be more than 450 million miles (730 million kilometers) apart. Earth, meanwhile, will be 550 million miles (890 million kilometers) from Jupiter.

A telescope will not only capture Jupiter and Saturn in the same field of view, but even some of their brightest moons.

Their next super-close pairing: March 15, 2080.

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court on Saturday observed that no student above the age of 18 years, teachers, and staff can be allowed to attend schools and colleges unless they have received at least one jab of the COVID vaccine.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum was hearing a PIL filed by Mangaluru doctor Srinivas B Kakkilaya and others. The bench dismissed the PIL and said at least one dose of the COVID vaccine should be mandatorily taken by those attending schools and colleges.

The PIL had claimed that the circular issued by the state government on July 16, 2021, making vaccination mandatory in nature was in violation of fundamental rights as guaranteed under Articles 14 and 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution of India.

It had also added that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has maintained that the vaccination does not prevent the spread of the virus hence has little potential of stopping the pandemic.

According to the petitioners, such discrimination based on unreasonable classification, such as status of vaccination of an individual, is curbing the rights to practice any profession. The petitioners further claimed that the circular violates the dictum of the Supreme Court in the Common Cause Vs Union of India (2018) case which recognized the right, choice, and liberty of an individual to prefer the medicine of his/ her choice.

“We are of the considered view that no student, teacher or staff who have not received vaccines shall be permitted to attend the school or college, where the students gather in large numbers and risk them. As such no directions can be issued to permit such teachers, students, or staff who have not received at least one dose of vaccine to attend colleges in terms GO dated July 16, 2021,” the court said.