mbone writes "Jupiter just went through Superior Conjunction (i.e., went behind the Sun as seen from the Earth), so it has been out of view for a while. Now that it has returned, it is different — the South Equatorial Belt (SEB) is missing. The SEB has about 10 times the surface area of the Earth, so this is not a small change. Here are a series of photos of Jupiter's new look. The Great Red Spot typically inhabits the southern border of the SEB, but it doesn't seem to be affected by the change. It's a pity that this happened at Superior Conjunction, and that there is no satellite in Jupiter orbit, so details of the change are largely missing. The SEB has previously gone missing in 1973 and 1990. Since no one really knows what makes the Jovian belts, no one knows why they disappear either. If the belts are really just material from deeper layers coming to the surface, it is possible that the convection has stopped for some reason, or that high-altitude clouds have covered it over."
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