Cleveland, Robin Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.
Last reviewed:January 2020
- Supersonic aircraft
- Mach cone
- Nonlinear distortion
- Atmospheric propagation
- Impacts on the ground
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
An audible sound wave generated by an object that moves faster than the speed of sound (supersonic object). The sonic boom forms because the air is pushed away faster than the air molecules can move. The displaced air becomes highly compressed and creates a very strong sound wave, referred to as a compressional head shock or bow shock. At the back of the supersonic object the air has to fill the void left as the object moves forward; in this case, the gas becomes rarefied and a rarefractional tail shock develops. These shock waves are the main components of a sonic boom, and they are generated the entire time that an object flies faster than the speed of sound, not just when it breaks the sonic barrier. See also: Shock wave
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