NASA captures unprecedented images of supersonic shockwaves

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This handout colorized composite image released by NASA on February 7, 2019 shows two T-38 aircrafts flying in formation at supersonic speeds producing shockwaves that are typically heard on the ground as a sonic boom. (AFP/NASA/HO)
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This handout colorized composite image released by NASA on February 7, 2019 shows two T-38 aircrafts flying in formation at supersonic speeds producing shockwaves that are typically heard on the ground as a sonic boom. (AFP/NASA/HO)
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This handout image released by NASA on February 7, 2019 shows a photo called a “knife-edge” shot of supersonic shock waves created by a single T-38. (AFP/NASA)
Updated 08 March 2019
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NASA captures unprecedented images of supersonic shockwaves

  • The rendezvous at an altitude of around 30,000 feet yielded mesmerizing images of the shockwaves emanating from both planes
  • Sonic booms can be a major nuisance, capable of not just startling people on the ground but also causing damage

WASHINGTON: NASA has captured unprecedented photos of the interaction of shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft, part of its research into developing planes that can fly faster than sound without thunderous “sonic booms.”
When an aircraft crosses that threshold — around 1,225 kilometers (760 miles) per hour at sea level — it produces waves from the pressure it puts on the air around it, which merge to cause the ear-splitting sound.
In an intricate maneuver by “rock star” pilots at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, two supersonic T-38 jets flew just 30 feet (nine meters) apart below another plane waiting to photograph them with an advanced, high-speed camera, the agency said.
The rendezvous — at an altitude of around 30,000 feet — yielded mesmerizing images of the shockwaves emanating from both planes.
With one jet flying just behind the other, “the shocks are going to be shaped differently,” said Neal Smith of AerospaceComputing Inc, an engineering firm that works with NASA, in a post on the agency’s website.
“This data is really going to help us advance our understanding of how these shocks interact.”
Sonic booms can be a major nuisance, capable of not just startling people on the ground but also causing damage — like shattered windows — and this has led to strong restrictions on supersonic flight over land in jurisdictions like the United States.
The ability to capture such detailed images of shockwaves will be “crucial” to NASA’s development of the X-59, the agency said, an experimental supersonic plane it hopes will be able to break the sound barrier with just a rumble instead of a sonic boom.
A breakthrough like that could lead to the loosening of flight restrictions and the return of commercial supersonic planes for the first time since Concorde was retired in 2003.
Some countries and cities banned the Franco-British airliner from their airspace because of its sonic booms.


‘I spy with my little eye’: CIA launches Instagram account

Updated 26 April 2019
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‘I spy with my little eye’: CIA launches Instagram account

  • The spy agency has been openly recruiting from universities and industry

WASHINGTON: The Central Intelligence Agency opened its own account on Instagram Thursday with a picture of a desk of mysteries teased by the children’s game prompt “I spy with my little eye.”
The photo tempts with intrigues and adventure: a wig suggesting disguises, maps of China and the Gulf, foreign banknotes, a burn bag for getting rid of secret documents, a notebook with Arabic, and other items — mostly real operation souvenirs of CIA officers.
Next to a wall is a photo with the words: “I want to travel the world.”
The Instagram posting was an expansion of the premier US spy agency’s effort to recruit a younger generation of officers, agents and analysts, having already been on Twitter and Facebook for years.
The agency has been openly recruiting from universities and industry, and Instagram gives it a way to reach a large, younger demographic: most of its regular users are under 30.
“We’re looking to spark the curiosity of Instagram’s users about the many ways CIA’s global mission has us going where others cannot go and doing what others cannot do,” the agency said in a statement.
“Through the account, we’ll give a peek into agency life, but we can’t promise any selfies from secret locations.”