How to estimate the opposition position of a planet
The orbits of the planets are only moderately inclined
(i.e. a few degrees) to
the ecliptic plane and hence the planets are seen to
roughly track along the ecliptic.
A good approximation to the Sun's (RA, Dec) position
is given by
We can use these two formulae to make a rough estimate of a planet's (RA, Dec) position at the time of opposition. Jupiter was at opposition on 9th July 2008. So if we estimate the Sun's (RA, Dec) position at a date six months eariler (or later), e.g. 9th January, then this position will be approximately where Jupiter will be at opposition.
On the 9th January the Sun's ecliptic longitude is about 288° (on 21st January the Sun's λ = 300° and hence 12 days eariler will be about 300° − 12° ). Using the above formulae, we find RA = 287.0° and Dec = −22.4°. Jupiter's actual position at opposition in 2009 was RA = 289° (19h 16m) and Dec = −22.5°.