Pictures: Breaking the Sound Barrier

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Credit: NASA
Breaking the sound barrier sometimes creates a visible vapor cone, also called a shock collar or shock egg. The strange phenomenon can occur with jet planes…Read More »

or rockets. Here, a vapor cone developed around the Saturn V rocket during the July 16, 1969 launch of the Apollo 11 mission to put the first man on the moon. Scientists don't understand it well but they think that in humid conditions, condensation gathers in the trough between two crests of the sound waves. The vapor cone results from what's called a Prandtl–Glauert singularity.

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