NASA Captures First Air-to-Air Images of Supersonic Shockwaves Interacting in Flight

“We nev­er dreamt that it would be this clear, this beau­ti­ful.” That’s how NASA sci­en­tist J.T. Hei­neck respond­ed when he got his first glimpse of images that cap­tured “the first-ever images of the inter­ac­tion of shock­waves from two super­son­ic air­craft in flight.”

NASA writes:

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‑38s are fly­ing approx­i­mate­ly 30 feet away from each oth­er, with the trail­ing air­craft fly­ing about 10 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, if you look at 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 NASA has pre­vi­ous­ly used the schlieren pho­tog­ra­phy tech­nique to study shock­waves, the Air­BOS 4 flights fea­tured an upgrad­ed ver­sion of the pre­vi­ous air­borne schlieren 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 don’t think any­body has ever 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’d imag­ined. This is a very big step.”

via Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 14 Free Posters from NASA That Depict the Future of Space Trav­el in a Cap­ti­vat­ing­ly Retro Style

NASA Dig­i­tizes 20,000 Hours of Audio from the His­toric Apol­lo 11 Mis­sion: Stream Them Free Online

The Full Rota­tion of the Moon: A Beau­ti­ful, High Res­o­lu­tion Time Lapse Film

Hear the Very First Sounds Ever Record­ed on Mars, Cour­tesy of NASA

NASA Cre­ates Movie Par­o­dy Posters for Its Expe­di­tion Flights: Down­load Par­o­dies of Metrop­o­lis, The Matrix, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and More


by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.