Phenomena

STS-135: The Final Shuttle Flight

Condensation clouds form around sections of Atlantis as STS-135–the final space shuttle flight–launches from Cape Canaveral this morning. These clouds, also called Prandtl-Glauert singularities or vapor cones, form at transonic speeds when air accelerates around the vehicle. The area just behind these shock waves experiences a drop in pressure and temperature that brings a localized portion of the flow below the dew point. Rapid condensation of the moisture in the air results. Miss the launch? Watch it here.

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