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Faster Then the Speed of Sound

Cindy Scarr

Ever heard what sounded like a huge clap of thunder on a bright, cloudless day? It was probably a sonic boom. A sonic boom is a very loud shockwave that sounds a lot like an explosion. It is caused by an object that moves faster than the speed of sound. Supersonic flight refers to aircraft traveling faster than the speed of sound, which is 768 mph (or about one mile in five seconds). A typical 747 reaches speeds of around 550 mph.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

speed of light The term supersonic came into use during World War II. USAF pilot Chuck Yeager was credited with being the first man to break the sound barrier (the point at which an aircraft goes from transonic to supersonic speed) on October 14, 1947, flying at an altitude of 45,000 ft at Mach 1, about 761 mph. Mach; that’s another term you might have heard. What does it mean? It’s a number representing the speed of something moving through air or other fluid divided by the local speed of sound. Mach is commonly used to represent the speed of something traveling close to or above the speed of sound. It’s named after Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach.

 

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