Planets’ space paths in March and April, with sightlines from Earth at April 7. The view is from 15° north of the ecliptic plane. The dashed line is the vernal equinox direction. The planets are exaggerated 300 times in size; Jupiter, 50 times; the sun, 5.
Earth overtakes Jupiter on the inside, so that Jupiter is directly outward from – opposite to – the sun. Around this time, Earth itself is being overtaken on the inside by Venus (the moment of this “inferior conjunction” was March 25) and Mercury (the moment will be April 20).
The more exact moment when Jupiter is at opposition is April 7, 21h Universal Time, which is 4 p.m. by Central U.S. summertime clocks. So the nearest you can get to it is the evening that follows.
Far out beyond Jupiter shine the stars of Virgo.
Bottom line: Astronomer Guy Ottewell provides one of his famous heliocentric perspective charts showing why April 7, 2017 – and the months before and after it – are a special time to see Jupiter.
Astronomer, artist and poet Guy Ottewell's beloved Astronomical Calendar ended its yearly print run in 2016, its 43rd year. Visit Guy’s website UniversalWorkshop.com or his blog at UniversalWorkshop.com/Guysblog. You can also find 2017 Astronomical Calendar info and charts there at UniversalWorkshop.com/Guysblog/astronomical-calendar-2017. His stories and art are used here with permission. Thank you, Guy!