This NASA image captures the exact moment that two rays went supersonic
This first ever image of supersonic shock waves interacting midflight needed perfect timing and nervous flight.
The image: It captures the moment two supersonic jets break the sound barrier at the same time. The shock waves are caused by rapid pressure changes when a plane flies faster than the speed of sound. It was captured in black and white but is shown here as a colored composite.
Right to the time: The pictures concerned three aircraft that were all in exactly the right place at the right time. NASA flew a 30,000-foot Beechcraft Super King airplane while a pair of Northrop T-38 Talon planes flew just 2,000 feet below it, breaking into supersonic speeds at just the right moment. The NASA planet had been equipped with an image system that could collect 1
,400 frames per second and used a technology called the schlieren photograph to capture this image.
“We never dreamed it would be that clear, this beautiful,” said NASA researcher JT Heineck. “I’m ecstatic about how these pictures turned out.”
Purpose: Almost the images are a serious purpose: to collect data that helps in designing NASA’s new X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X plan. NASA hopes that by reducing sonic barriers it will escape the restrictions on supersonic flight over land.
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