NASA has released exquisite new images which show shockwaves interacting with one another after being released by two supersonic aircraft. These photos are all part of the agency’s groundbreaking new project to create planes that are able to travel faster than sound, but with the development of these new planes NASA is also attempting to stop any noticeable sonic booms from occurring.
As Phys.org reports, when aircraft hits a speed of 760 MPH (1,225 KPH) while at sea level, these planes emit waves which arise from the tremendous amounts of pressure the planes place on the air all around them, which, in turn, creates the deafening sonic boom sound.
The recently published images showing shockwaves were created after two pilots took off from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California flying supersonic T-38 jets to an altitude of 30,000 feet, and then flew at a distance of just 30 feet apart from each other, while a separate third plane above them captured their movement using a special high-speed camera.
Neal Smith of AerospaceComputing Inc., an engineering firm who are currently working with NASA, explained that with two of these supersonic jets traveling so close to one another, “the shocks are going to be shaped differently,” and went on to add that, “this data is really going to help us advance our understanding of how these shocks interact.”
While sonic booms pose no real physical threat to humans, they are not a pleasant sound and are also fully capable of breaking windows. NASA is working hard to try and avoid them with the new jets that they are attempting to construct. And with supersonic flight restrictions currently in place in many parts of the United States, it is in everyone’s best interest to create new planes that can travel faster than sound, but without creating these sonic booms.
The new images of these shockwaves are reportedly “crucial” to the creation of NASA’s new X-59 planes, according to the government agency, and NASA is hopeful that when these jets cross the sound barrier, they will emit nothing but a minor sound, rather than the loud sonic booms that normally occur with such fast planes.
With NASA’s new images of shockwaves to study, if the agency’s planes come to fruition and work as planned, many of the current flight restrictions in place may be removed completely, and commercial supersonic jets, like the Concorde, may one day be traversing the skies again.