Sonic Boom Research

Sonic Boom research


The shock waves created by a T-38 jet in supersonic flight at Mach 1.1 and at 4000m altitude are seen here using a technique called Schlieren of Aircraft in Flight (SAF). A telescope is pointed at the Sun and its light focused onto a knife edge, behind which is a camera. A curved slit aperture ensures that only light from the very edge of the Sun is used. An aircraft flies precisely between the telescope and the Sun. The change in density of the air in the shock wave bends the path of the light passing through it, making that part of the image fall either away from or onto the knife edge. The changes in density are shown as darker or brighter patches. Here these have been digitally coloured - higher density as red and lower density as yellow. Seeing how real shock waves propagate is crucial to developing quieter supersonic airliners for the future.

Image © Leonard Weinstein/NASA


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