Truth 105, Fiction 3: Vapor Cones

Say you were watching a sci-fi movie where, every time a space ship reached a certain speed, it generated a cone of white mist and disappeared into it? Would you think, Kinda cool, but the special effects guy maybe used one effect too many? Well, this happens in real life, to mere airplanes. Per the Prandtl-Glauert singularity, vapor cones appear around objects as they near the speed of sound. Read all about it here, or check out the exhibits below and get the picture.

Exhibit A: An F/A-18 gives good cone:

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This F/A-18 demonstrates the Prandtl-Glauert singularity and/or an interdimensional portal:

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Not a cloud, not Photoshop, but the Prandtl-Glauert singularity demonstrated by a B-2 (top speed of 628 mph, on the record) near the speed of sound (747 mph, but relative).

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A pretty skirt:

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Not the coolest cone, but a swell picture:

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King Cone:

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Actually, that was fake. A B-52 couldn't go the speed of sound (767 mph give or take) unless you dropped it from outer space. But in a Buff's dreams…

The one below, I swear, is an F-22 (you can see a bit of wing protruding from the lowest part of the vapor cloud:

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Space Shuttle Atlantis goes conic:

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The Blackbird gets in on the act:

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This is pretty stupid, but it took me 1/2 hour to make it:

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To make up for that, a conic gallery (click arrows to see 9 more pix):

Last, not a vapor cone, but a close and cool cousin: NASA added colored smoke to the plume to measure the effect of vortices on the air behind landing aircraft. Result: Vortices are awesome. See a bunch of awesome vortex pix here.

NASA added colored smoke to the plume to measure the effect of vortices on the air behind landing aircraft. Result: Vortices are awesome.

Want a boatload of additional aviation pix? Go to Birdwatching galleries.