Schlieren in Flight

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Schlieren photography is a common method of visualizing shock waves in wind tunnel experiments, but it’s much harder to pull off for aircraft in the sky. This video from NASA shows off some stunning work out of NASA Dryden capturing schlieren video of shock waves from a F-15B aircraft at Mach 1.38. You’ll notice that shock waves extend off the nose, wings, tail, and other parts of the airplane and extend well beyond the camera’s field of view. It’s these shock waves hitting the ground level that causes distinctive sonic booms. These tests are part of NASA’s on-going research into minimizing the effects of sonic boom so that civilian supersonic flight over land is feasible in the future. When the U.S. government shutdown ends, you’ll be able to learn more about this work at NASA Dryden’s GASPS page. (Video credit: NASA Dryden)

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