NASA uses telescopic imaging system to photograph shockwaves from supersonic jets (PHOTOS)
posted Friday, September 27, 2013 at 3:06 PM EDT
NASA has used a unique telescopic photography system to capture amazing images of the shockwaves from fighter jets as they break the sound barrier. The images, shown on this page, were captured by NASA at the Dryden Flight Research Center in California using the Ground-to-Air Schlieren Photography System, or GASPS.
GASPS (which is a wicked name for a photography system, btw) combines telescopes, digital cameras and special image processing software to capture imagery of airflow density. In this case, it was used to record the density of the shockwaves produced by F-15 and F/A-18 fighter jets as the planes passed between the cameras and the sun.
While Schlieren photography, as it's known, was invented in the 1860s and has been used for decades to visualize the shockwaves created by supersonic aircraft, it's typically done with scale models in wind tunnels, according to Aviation Week. Photographing the shockwaves from actual jets helps NASA capture more accurate information on how sonic booms work which could, ostensibly, help reduce their effect over land.
Make sure to check out the video below the images, which explains how these new images were captured.