Incredible NASA images capture shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft in mid-flight

NASA Captures First Images of Supersonic Shockwaves from Two Jets

With exceptional clarity, the flow of the shock waves from both aircraft is seen, and for the first time, the interaction of the shocks can be seen in flight. These are the first air-to-air images of the phenomenon, and it was possible thanks to a brand new approach developed by the agency to study supersonic flow in real conditions. The two T-38s flew in about 10 meters of distance in between and about 600 meters away from the B200.

"What's interesting is, if you look at the rear T-38, you see these shocks kind of interact in a curve", Neal Smith, a research engineer with AerospaceComputing Inc.at NASA Ames' fluid mechanics laboratory, said in a statement. NASA flew a Beechcraft Super King Air plane at 30,000 feet while a pair of Northrop T-38 Talon planes flew just 2,000 feet below it, breaking into supersonic speeds at exactly the right moment. The photos are part of a NASA flight series aimed at capturing high-quality images of shock waves; these photos will help scientists better understand how the shock waves form and interact.

Many of us have heard a sonic boom - the loud crackle that reaches your ears when a supersonic aircraft flies overhead.

L.V. Anderson is Digg's managing editor. Often these shockwaves result in a sonic boom, which can sound like an explosion to those unaccustomed to hearing them.

NASA captured images of two supersonic shockwaves merging in the ais, and the pictures are truly impressive.

TheNewsGuru (TNG) reports NASA, established in 1958, is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

One of the greatest challenges of the flight series was timing. In order to acquire this image originally monochromatic and shown here as a colorized composite image NASA flew a B-200 outfitted with an updated imaging system at around 30,000 feet whil
NASA snaps supersonic shockwaves interacting in flight: Wowza!

"We never dreamt that it would be this clear, this handsome", said physical scientist JT Heineck of NASA's Ames Research Centre in California.

"With this upgraded system, we have, by an order of magnitude, improved both the speed and quality of our imagery from previous research", Heineck said.

These efforts will help advance knowledge of the characteristics of shockwaves as NASA progresses toward quiet supersonic research flights with the X-59, and closer toward a major milestone in aviation.

"We're seeing a level of physical detail here that I don't think anybody has ever seen before", says Dan Banks, an engineer at NASA Armstrong.

A NASA B-200 King Air plane carried the camera system as the T-38s flew below it at supersonic speeds.

NASA's upgraded photographic technology allowed researchers to caputre 1400 frames per second. "That is a very big step".

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