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Rare photo of Space Shuttle Sonic Boom*COOL*


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What you are seeing here is NOT the mach cone, but a transonic shockwave, a visual condensation of humid air where it goes from a local supersonic area (all lifting and curved surfaces) to a local subsonic area (the rear of the aircraft). This ONLY occurs in a transonic state, in other words between Mach 0.8 and Mach 1.3. Below that the aircraft is is fully subsonic, and above that is fully supersonic. If you look at the video posted by #12 Chris Johnston, you'll notice the shockwave is only visible intermittently. That's because high performance fighters are only transonic for a very brief period of time. Considering the Space Shuttle accelerates vertically from 0 to 17'000mph in a few minutes and that the air itself must meet certain conditions for a visible shockwave to form, the fact this picture was even taken is very impressive.

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