Swirls of Color

These beautiful swirls show the wake downstream of a thin plate. Here water is flowing from left to right and dye introduced on the plate (upstream and unseen in the photo) curls up into vortices. The vortices in the top row rotate clockwise, while the vortices along the bottom rotate anti-clockwise. This pattern of alternating vortices is extremely common in the wakes of objects and is known as a von Karman vortex street. Similar patterns are seen in soap films, behind cylinders, in the wakes of islands, and behind spaceships.  (Image credit: ONERA, archived here)

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