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This image of Jupiter's white oval, BC, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, and a corresponding infrared image taken by the Galileo spacecraft. The infrared picture helps to show how what the temperature is like inside the oval.
NASA

The White Ovals of Jupiter

Among the cloud shapes in the atmosphere of Jupiter are white ovals. White ovals are a collection of white clouds which are grouped together into an oval shape. They are found almost anywhere in the atmosphere of Jupiter. The oval itself can be as long as 9000 km (that is, 3/4 the size of the entire Earth - since the Earth is 12,000 km across!).

White ovals can change their shape, migrate through the atmosphere, come close enough to "bump" each other, and even eventually merge together. White ovals can live for 40 years or more. That means they are much younger than the Great Red Spot, which is at least 400 years old, but much older than any cloud feature found on the Earth.

Although there are other white ovals in Jupiter's atmosphere, there are 3 which are famous. They are famous because they have been around such a long time. They are named FA, DE, and BC. You may ask, "where did the scientists get those awful names?". The names come from the way in which they were born. After such a long time, two of the ovals, BC and DE, recently merged together (1998). What do you think scientists named the newly merged oval: perhaps ABCDEF? Scientists have decided to call it BE.

Last modified May 27, 2010 by Becca Hatheway.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA