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Always reliable for some cool pics, NASA recently released some pictures of intersecting soundwaves from a sonic boom and they are pretty spectacular.
Part of the agency’s research on next-gen supersonic jet aircraft, the pictures demonstrate how sounds move through the air quite like ripples on a pond after a rock skips across it.
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To take the pictures, NASA used a B-200 twin-turboprop research aircraft fitted with a camera capable of capturing 1,400 frames per second (for 3 seconds max) which flew above two Northrop T-38 Talon jets.
In a blog post describing the images, NASA writes: “[T]he pair of T-38s were required to not only remain in formation, but to fly at supersonic speeds at the precise moment they were directly beneath the B-200…The images were captured as a result of all three aircraft being in the exact right place at the exact right time designated by NASA’s operations team.”
As PetaPixel points out, the technique used to take the photos is called Background Oriented Schlleren which uses cameras to visualize the motion of air, heat, and sound.
In a further description of the phenomenon, NASA writes that, “rapid pressure changes which are produced when an aircraft flies faster than the speed of sound, or supersonic…Shockwaves produced by aircraft merge together as they travel through the atmosphere and are responsible for what is heard on the ground as a sonic boom.”
Apparently, the experiments are part of a program to develop better aircraft engines to allow these jets to to fly with fewer restrictions.
The effect, as seen in the photos, is really cool. Plus, it’s a nice break from the usual out-of-this-world photography that NASA is typically known for producing. Nonetheless, these photos demonstrate how amazing some of the unseen phenomena going on around us really is.