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This image of Jupiter's white ovals BC and DE was taken by the Galileo spacecraft
JPL/NASA

Birth of the Classic White Ovals of Jupiter

There are other white ovals in the atmosphere of Jupiter, but the birth of the three classic ovals happened in the following way.

The South Temperate Zone (STZ) of Jupiter is located between -27 and -37 degrees south latitude, near the Great Red Spot (located at -22 degrees). In 1939 the STZ underwent a perculiar disturbance called the "South Temperatue Zone Disturbance". Three dark hazy clouds appeared and divided the STZ into columnar sections. An observer, E.J. Reese, called the dark bands AB, CD, and EF. As the disturbance continued it became evident that the light areas between the dark bands were taking on the shape of broad, elongated ovals. Air in the ovals was circulating in the counter-clockwise direction. Scientists called these ovals between the dark areas FA, BC, and DE.

Over time the ovals have drastically changed their appearance . They were initially very long and stretched. Time has shown them to both shrink in size and gradually fade in appearance. FA has virtually disappeared from sight, and can only be seen in certain types of lighting.

Despite many years of jostling each other in the STZ, in 1998, BC and DE merged into a single oval called BE. With time BE will probably fade away, just as FA has done.

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