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Absolutely spectacular first-ever air-to-air images of supersonic jets' shockwaves interacting / Boing Boing

For a decade, NASA scientists have worked on an air-to-air photographic technology that will be used to collect data for the agency's next-generation supersonic airplane project. They've just released these absolutely astonishing "first air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave interaction in flight." "We never think it would be this clear, this beautiful," said NASA scientist J.T. Heineck. From NASA: The images feature a pair of T-38s from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, flying in formation at supersonic speeds. The T-38 is flying approximately 30 feet away from each other, with the trailing aircraft flying about 1 0 feet lower than the leading T-38. 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. "We're looking at a supersonic flow, which is why we're getting these shockwaves," said Neal Smith, a research engineer with AerospaceComputing Inc. at NASA Ames' fluid mechanics laboratory. "What's interesting is the rear T-38, you see these shocks kind of interact in a curve," he said. "This is because the trailing T-38 is flying in the wake of the leading aircraft, so the shocks are going to be shaped differently. This data is really going to help us advance our understanding of how these shocks interact … ” While using NASA previously used the slang photography technique to study shockwaves, the AirBOS featured 4 flights and upgraded version of the previous airborne…

For a decade, NASA scientists have worked on an air-to-air photographic technology that will be used to collect data for the agency’s next-generation supersonic airplane project. They’ve just released these absolutely astonishing “first air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave interaction in flight.”

“We never think it would be this clear, this beautiful,” said NASA scientist J.T. Heineck.

From NASA:

The images feature a pair of T-38s from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, flying in formation at supersonic speeds. The T-38 is flying approximately 30 feet away from each other, with the trailing aircraft flying about 1

0 feet lower than the leading T-38. 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.

“We’re looking at a supersonic flow, which is why we’re getting these shockwaves,” said Neal Smith, a research engineer with AerospaceComputing Inc. at NASA Ames’ fluid mechanics laboratory.

“What’s interesting is the rear T-38, you see these shocks kind of interact in a curve,” he said. “This is because the trailing T-38 is flying in the wake of the leading aircraft, so the shocks are going to be shaped differently. This data is really going to help us advance our understanding of how these shocks interact … ”

While using NASA previously used the slang photography technique to study shockwaves, the AirBOS featured 4 flights and upgraded version of the previous airborne systems, allowing researchers to capture three times the amount of data in the same amount of time.

“We’re seeing a level of physical detail here that I think anybody has seen before,” said Dan Banks, senior research engineer at NASA Armstrong. “Just looking at the data for the first time, I think things worked out better than we imagined. This is a very big step. “

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David Pescovitz

David Pescovitz is Boing Boing’s co-editor. On Instagram, he’s @pesco.

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