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## #1 2024-03-10 17:38:51

Jai Ganesh
Registered: 2005-06-28
Posts: 47,307

### Sonic boom

Sonic boom

Gist

Sonic boom is a shock wave that is produced by an aircraft or other object flying at a speed equal to or exceeding the speed of sound and that is heard on the ground as a sound like a clap of thunder.

When an aircraft travels at subsonic speed, the pressure disturbances, or sounds, that it generates extend in all directions. Because this disturbance is transmitted earthward continuously to every point along the path, there are no sharp disturbances or changes of pressure. At supersonic speeds, however, the pressure field is confined to a region extending mostly to the rear and extending from the craft in a restricted widening cone (called a Mach cone). As the aircraft proceeds, the trailing parabolic edge of that cone of disturbance intercepts the Earth, producing on Earth a sound of a sharp bang or boom. When such an aircraft flies at a low altitude, the shock wave may be of sufficient intensity to cause glass breakage and other damage. The intensity of the sonic boom is determined not only by the distance between the craft and the ground but also by the size and shape of the aircraft, the types of maneuvers that it makes, and the atmospheric pressure, temperature, and winds. If the aircraft is especially long, double sonic booms might be detected, one emanating from the leading edge of the plane and one from the trailing edge.

Summary

Sonic boom is a common name for the loud noise that is created by the 'shock wave' produced by the air-plane that is traveling at speeds greater than that of sound ( speed of sound is approximately 332 m/s or 1195 km/hr or 717 miles/hour). These speeds are called supersonic speeds, hence this phenomena is sometimes called the supersonic boom.

Normally, for a plane that is going at subsonic speeds (lower than that of sound), the sound of the plane is radiated in all directions. However, the individual sound wavelets are compressed at the front of the plane and further spread at the back of the plane because of the forward speed of the plane. This effect is known as the Doppler effect and accounts for the change of the 'pitch' of the plane's sound as it passes us. When the plane is approaching us it's sound has a higher pitch than if it is going away from us.

Now, if the plane is traveling at the supersonic speeds (greater than that of sound), it is going faster than it's own sound. As a result, a pressure (sound is variation in pressure) wave is produced in the shape of the cone whose vertex is at the nose of the plane, and whose base is behind the plane. The angle opening of the cone depends on the actual speed the plane is traveling at. All of the sound pressure is contained in this cone.

So imagine now this plane in a level flight. Before the plane passes you, you can only see it but you can not hear anything. The pressure cone is trailing behind the plane. Once your ears intersect the edge of this cone, your will hear a very loud sound - the sonic boom. Therefore you will hear the sonic boom once your ears intersect this cone, and not when the plane breaks the sound barrier (as it is commonly misunderstood)

The sonic booms can be sometimes quite loud. For a commercial supersonic transport plane (SST), it can be as loud as 136 decibels, or 120 Pa (in units of pressure).

Details

A sonic boom is a sound associated with shock waves created when an object travels through the air faster than the speed of sound. Sonic booms generate enormous amounts of sound energy, sounding similar to an explosion or a thunderclap to the human ear.

The crack of a supersonic bullet passing overhead or the crack of a bullwhip are examples of a sonic boom in miniature.

Sonic booms due to large supersonic aircraft can be particularly loud and startling, tend to awaken people, and may cause minor damage to some structures. This led to the prohibition of routine supersonic flight overland. Although they cannot be completely prevented, research suggests that with careful shaping of the vehicle, the nuisance due to the sonic booms may be reduced to the point that overland supersonic flight may become a feasible option.

A sonic boom does not occur only at the moment an object crosses the sound barrier and neither is it heard in all directions emanating from the supersonic object. Rather, the boom is a continuous effect that occurs while the object is traveling at supersonic speeds and affects only observers that are positioned at a point that intersects a region in the shape of a geometrical cone behind the object. As the object moves, this conical region also moves behind it and when the cone passes over the observer, they will briefly experience the "boom".

Causes

When an aircraft passes through the air, it creates a series of pressure waves in front of the aircraft and behind it, similar to the bow and stern waves created by a boat. These waves travel at the speed of sound and, as the speed of the object increases, the waves are forced together, or compressed, because they cannot get out of each other's way quickly enough. Eventually, they merge into a single shock wave, which travels at the speed of sound, a critical speed known as Mach 1, which is approximately 1,192 km/h (741 mph) at sea level and 20 °C (68 °F).

In smooth flight, the shock wave starts at the nose of the aircraft and ends at the tail. Because the different radial directions around the aircraft's direction of travel are equivalent (given the "smooth flight" condition), the shock wave forms a Mach cone, similar to a vapour cone, with the aircraft at its tip.

There is a rise in pressure at the nose, decreasing steadily to a negative pressure at the tail, followed by a sudden return to normal pressure after the object passes. This "overpressure profile" is known as an N-wave because of its shape. The "boom" is experienced when there is a sudden change in pressure; therefore, an N-wave causes two booms – one when the initial pressure rise reaches an observer, and another when the pressure returns to normal. This leads to a distinctive "double boom" from a supersonic aircraft. When the aircraft is maneuvering, the pressure distribution changes into different forms, with a characteristic U-wave shape.

Since the boom is being generated continually as long as the aircraft is supersonic, it fills out a narrow path on the ground following the aircraft's flight path, a bit like an unrolling red carpet, and hence known as the boom carpet. Its width depends on the altitude of the aircraft. The distance from the point on the ground where the boom is heard to the aircraft depends on its altitude and the angle

For today's supersonic aircraft in normal operating conditions, the peak overpressure varies from less than 50 to 500 Pa (1 to 10 psf (pound per square foot)) for an N-wave boom. Peak overpressures for U-waves are amplified two to five times the N-wave, but this amplified overpressure impacts only a very small area when compared to the area exposed to the rest of the sonic boom. The strongest sonic boom ever recorded was 7,000 Pa (144 psf) and it did not cause injury to the researchers who were exposed to it. The boom was produced by an F-4 flying just above the speed of sound at an altitude of 100 feet (30 m). In recent tests, the maximum boom measured during more realistic flight conditions was 1,010 Pa (21 psf). There is a probability that some damage—shattered glass, for example—will result from a sonic boom. Buildings in good condition should suffer no damage by pressures of 530 Pa (11 psf) or less. And, typically, community exposure to sonic boom is below 100 Pa (2 psf). Ground motion resulting from the sonic boom is rare and is well below structural damage thresholds accepted by the U.S. Bureau of Mines and other agencies.

The power, or volume, of the shock wave, depends on the quantity of air that is being accelerated, and thus the size and shape of the aircraft. As the aircraft increases speed the shock cone gets tighter around the craft and becomes weaker to the point that at very high speeds and altitudes, no boom is heard. The "length" of the boom from front to back depends on the length of the aircraft to a power of 3/2. Longer aircraft therefore "spread out" their booms more than smaller ones, which leads to a less powerful boom.

Several smaller shock waves can and usually do form at other points on the aircraft, primarily at any convex points, or curves, the leading wing edge, and especially the inlet to engines. These secondary shockwaves are caused by the air being forced to turn around these convex points, which generates a shock wave in supersonic flow.

The later shock waves are somewhat faster than the first one, travel faster, and add to the main shockwave at some distance away from the aircraft to create a much more defined N-wave shape. This maximizes both the magnitude and the "rise time" of the shock which makes the boom seem louder. On most aircraft designs the characteristic distance is about 40,000 feet (12,000 m), meaning that below this altitude the sonic boom will be "softer". However, the drag at this altitude or below makes supersonic travel particularly inefficient, which poses a serious problem.

Supersonic aircraft

Supersonic aircraft are any aircraft that can achieve flight faster than Mach 1, which refers to the speed of sound. "Supersonic includes speeds up to five times Mach than the speed of sound, or Mach 5." (Dunbar, 2015) The top mileage per hour for a supersonic aircraft normally ranges from 700 to 1,500 miles per hour (1,100 to 2,400 km/h). Typically, most aircraft do not exceed 1,500 mph (2,414 km/h). There are many variations of supersonic aircraft. Some models of supersonic aircraft make use of better-engineered aerodynamics that allow a few sacrifices in the aerodynamics of the model for thruster power. Other models use the efficiency and power of the thruster to allow a less aerodynamic model to achieve greater speeds. A typical model found in United States military use ranges from an average of \$13 million to \$35 million U.S. dollars.

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