In the clean and simplified world of the laboratory, a droplet’s impact on water is symmetric. From a central point of impact, it sends out a ring of ripples, or even a crown splash, if it has enough momentum. But the real world is rarely so simple.
Here we see how droplets impact when the wind is blowing against them. The drops fall at an angle, creating an oblique cavity. Rings of ripples spread from the impact, but the ligaments of a splash crown form only on the leeward side. As the wind speed increases, so does the violence of the impact, eventually beginning to trap tiny pockets of air beneath the surface. Those miniature bubbles can spray droplets and aerosols into the air when they finally pop. (Image and video credit: A. Wang et al.)