/Incredible NASA images capture shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft in mid-flight – Yahoo News

Incredible NASA images capture shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft in mid-flight – Yahoo News

Incredible NASA images have captured the interacting ‘shockwaves’ from two supersonic aircraft – rapid pressure changes which are produced when an aircraft flies faster than the speed of sound.

The first-of-their-kind images were captured in a test of an advanced air-to-air photographic technology in flight.

Physical Scientist J.T. Heineck of NASA’s Ames Research Center said, ‘We never dreamt that it would be this clear, this beautiful.

‘I am ecstatic about how these images turned out. With this upgraded system, we have, by an order of magnitude, improved both the speed and quality of our imagery from previous research.’

The system will be used to capture data crucial to confirming the design of the agency’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or X-59 QueSST.

The aircraft could pave the way for a new age of supersonic travel – with ‘quiet’ sonic booms enabling new craft to fly over land.

The breathtaking images will help to design future aircraft (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-38s are flying approximately 30 feet away from each other, with the trailing aircraft flying about 10 feet lower than the leading T-38.

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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. 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.’

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