NASA has captured record photos of the contact of shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft. A significant research into developing planes that can soar faster than sound without thunderous” sonic booms”.
In a difficult maneuver by pilots at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, a duo of supersonic T-38 jets flew just 30 feet (nine meters) apart underneath another plane waiting to photograph them with a high-speed camera.
The engagement – at an altitude of around 30,000 feet – produced enthralling images of the shockwaves originating from both planes. With one jet flying just behind the other, “the shocks are going to be shaped differently”, as told by Neal Smith of Aerospace Computing Inc., an engineering firm that works with NASA, in the website’s post.
“This data is really going to help us advance our understanding of how these shocks interact.” He added.
When an aircraft traverses that threshold of speeds 1,225 kilometers (760 miles) per hour at sea level – it creates waves from the pressure it puts on the air around it that merges to cause the ear-splitting boom.
Sonic booms can be a major annoyance, capable of not just startling people on the ground but also producing damage like shattered windows and this has led to strong restrictions on supersonic flight over land in jurisdictions like the US.
The ability to capture such comprehensive images of shockwaves will be “crucial” to NASA’s progress of the X-59 which is an untried supersonic plane in hopes it will be able to break the sound barrier with just a roar instead of a sonic boom.