To get the image, NASA utilized a Super King Air turboprop airplane flying at an indicated airspeed of about 160 miles per hour at 30,000 feet.
The two supersonic jets, separated by about 30 feet front to back and 10 feet vertically, were listed below the King Air by about 2,000 feet when it shot the images.
The shock waves were photographable because of the modification in air density. "The density modification triggers a modification in the index of refraction," Banks states. A spoon will look distorted when you see it immersed in a glass of water.
It turns out that images of shockwaves triggered by flying faster than the speed of sound are amazing to see, even without the sound.
NASA photographed 2 T-38 airplanes flying at merely faster than the speed of sound over California. The King Air has ports on its stomach that can be opened or closed, and the photography equipment was placed in among those ports so it might shoot downwards.
The turboprop doing the shooting was still above the supersonic jet. However, the T-38 had rolled sideways. " We have high-resolution, high-speed cams. We are photographing the desert flooring," states Dan Banks, a senior research study engineer at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. "And then the target airplane-- in this case, the T-38s-- fly below."
If a supersonic airplane flew overhead, you've most likely heard of a sonic boom - the loud sound that would reach your ears. It turns out that images of shockwaves triggered by flying faster than the speed of sound are incredible to see, even without the sound.
NASA photographed 2 T-38 airplanes flying at merely faster than the speed of sound over California. (Mach 1 is the speed of sound that alters depending on an airplane's elevation).
The T-38s were going at Mach 1.01, which is simply over the speed of sound. (Speed of sound is Mach 1, which alters depending on an airplane's elevation.).