This first-ever picture of supersonic shock waves interacting midflight needed flawless timing and nerveless flying. To accomplish the latter feat, scientists from NASA's Ames Research Center developed a new "Air-to-Air" photographic technique that can see the air pressure of the shockwave as it's being generated.
"What's interesting is, if you look at the rear T-38, you see these shocks kind of interact in a curve", said research engineer Neal Smith.
In a complex move by "rock star" pilots at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, two supersonic T-38 planes flew only 30 feet (nine meters) separated underneath another plane holding on to photo them with a propelled, rapid camera, the office said. 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. This gives us a gorgeous visualization of the shockwaves that are heard on the ground as loud sonic booms.More news: Tesla faces stiff competition as Porsche plans to boost Taycan production
L.V. Anderson is Digg's managing editor. Once ready, the equipment that generated the images will be used to evaluate the X-59, a test plane created to fly at supersonic speeds but without the loud sonic boom.
If successful, the project could help the nascent supersonic airliner revival gain traction: The most famous commercial supersonic plane, the Concorde, was permitted to break the sound barrier only when it was out over the ocean because of the sonic boom problem.
Researchers have been interested in studying how shock waves interact for a long time. The images were captured as a result of all three aircraft being in the exact right place at the exact right time designated by NASA's operations team.More news: Protests-hit Algeria puts students on holiday
"With this upgraded system, we have, by an order of magnitude, improved both the speed and quality of our imagery from previous research".
"We're seeing a level of physical detail here that I don't think anybody has ever seen before", said Dan Banks, a senior research engineer at NASA. "This is a very big step". However, the AirBOS 4 flights used an updated version of the schlieren systems, which captured triple the amount of data they were able to capture previously. Sonic booms can carry for huge distances and, depending on how far they have to travel, they can shatter windows, shake buildings, and generally disrupt life... but what does a sonic boom look like?
An artistic picture of the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, also known as the QueSST.More news: Offshore wind turbines to power past fossil fuels by 2030