NASA successfully captured the sonic boom of a high-speed aircraft, and the photo is nothing short of stunning. The space agency was able to take photo after remodeling an old technique that is at least a century old. They also the sun to their advantage as a backdrop to make sure that the photo would be magnificent.
The photo comes at a time when is currently working on a supersonic jet, that they say is “quiet”. The aircraft will be able to break the sound barrier and not cause any shockwave wider than the 30-mile sonic boom shockwave. The American agency has been inching closer with each day to making the aircraft a reality. However, they had to make sweeping design changes to their plans, after they noticed the shockwaves produced when an aircraft goes supersonic.
To make the stunning photo, NASA used a 150-year-old maneuver which was made to capture supersonic objects in motion. The century-old technique is called the Schlieren imaging method. It brings about the tracking of tiny distortions which can be produced against a uniform background which will be produced as a result of the high-speed motion of any passing object. However, the agency said that the method was limited in scale, so they made some wide-ranging changes to make it viable for use. On top of that, they used the Sun to make a backdrop for the photo.
The agency released a picture of the jet in a transonic phase, which means moving from subsonic to supersonic speed, at a time it was passing in front of the Sun. In the photo, you can see as it appears to form shockwaves which are formed as it goes beyond the sound barrier. NASA posted a video of the technique which was used to capture the jet and the shockwaves which came as a result.
One of NASA researcher’s involvement in the project, Mike Hill, said that the camera system they used for the photo had a hydrogen alpha filter. This enabled them to capture with specificity the wavelength of the light produced by the Sun. In turn, this is what could be used to get the granular texture needed to get the best photo possible, he added.
The plane was flying at an altitude of 15,000-20,000 ft when the image was taken. However, according to reports, the new quieter jets that NASA is working in will be able to fly at 60,000 ft. In order to be able to capture the motion of the aircraft, NASA will equip an imaging system which will be positioned on another aircraft. Therefore, they will conduct an air to air shoot.
Hill commented that the agency’s main objective was to see how the photo looked like at close range. They also wanted to see what kind of shockwave they could make out. With the photo taken, they were able to determine the quality of the images of the shockwaves, he added.