Shock Waves

Credit: Milton Van Dyke, photograph by A. C. Charters

A sphere moving through the air at Mach 1.5. The leading shock wave, or bow shock, created by a sphere or another blunt shape (like an Apollo spacecraft or a Space Shuttle reentering the atmosphere) remains detached from the object. A second shock wave forms farther back, attached to the sphere itself, where the airflow separates from the surface and forms a turbulent wake.

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