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Supersonic shockwaves captured in the act

GASPS imaging of supersonic shockwaves. Video courtesy NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center.

Researchers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, CA, US, recently captured images of supersonic shockwaves streaming from two research aircraft.

MetroLaser, Inc. developed a new high-tech Schlieren imaging system – known as the Ground-to-Air Schlieren Photography System (GASPS) – under a Small Business Innovation Research Program contract. The system employs telescopes, digital cameras, and specialized image-processing software to record images of airflow density.

In this case, the system recorded the density of shockwaves as F-15 and F/A-18 aircraft passed between the cameras and the sun. By providing a clearer understanding of the location and relative strength of supersonic shockwaves, Schlieren imaging becomes another tool in NASA’s growing research toolbox for characterizing sonic booms.

- Amber Harmon

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