Flying Fragments

Flying fragments can be a big danger in explosions. Shown above are two shadowgraph images of 1 gram explosives originally packed in solid containers. Each explosion produced a visible spherical shock wave, about 1 meter across in both pictures. On the left side, the container has fragmented into large pieces, each of which travels near to but less than the speed of sound. On the right, the fragments are much smaller, but many of them are traveling at supersonic speeds ahead of the main shock wave. If you look closely, you can even see faint Mach cones extending from each fragment. In a real, full-scale explosion, these shards would strike like a hail of bullets ahead of the blast wave. (Image credit: G. Settles)

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