Shockwaves Against the Sun

NASA’s stunning visualization of a supersonic jet in motion.

NASA recently visualized shockwaves with a T-38 jet flying at supersonic speeds, the sun as a light source, and a 150-year-old photography technique. The resulting images are the first time shock waves were captured so distinctly from the ground, cheaper than trying the same feat from the sky.

Another image, captured by a high-speed camera attached to a second airplane using special optical filters, illustrates how shock waves are created when objects move faster than the speed of sound, which is around 768 miles per hour. The T-38 had to be within about 300 feet of a point in the sky between the camera and the sun—and it only had a two-minute window to make it all happen.