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VX-9 F-35C going Transonic

This photo captured by aviation photographer @point_mugu_skies, shows an of the US Navy squadron VX-9 "Vampires" making visible shockwaves as it goes Transonic at the Sidewinder low-level training route in California.

As the jet flies at speed, the air around it compresses or expands as pressures differ at various parts of the airframe. These pressure differences change how light is refracted, and sometimes it all can be caught by skilled photographers.

Reader reactions:
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10 responses

  1. This is an amazing pic, Anna-Elizabeth! Thanks for sharing!

  2. This requires quite some photography skills, Anna-Elizabeth @tankgrrl
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for sharing, @tankgrrl.

  4. Incredible picture, please excuse the question, but what is “transonic”?

    • From Wikipedia:

      "Transonic (or transsonic) flow is air flowing around an object at a speed that generates regions of both subsonic and supersonic airflow around that object. The exact range of speeds depends on the object's critical Mach number, but transonic flow is seen at flight speeds close to the speed of sound (343 m/s at sea level), typically between Mach 0.8 and 1.2."

  5. Neato photo. Can't get enough F-35s.

  6. @tankgrrl - Amazing photo and great explanation.

  7. Very nice photo and hard to capture. Usually it takes special lighting and lens filters to be able to capture the "Schlieren Effect" of the shock waves. As a side note, the waves form at the nose of the jet as it approaches the speed of sound at MachCrit. Then in the transonic range they move aft on the jet, impinged in various places. Finally, they are "attached" at the tail once the jet has gone fully supersonic.

  8. Thanks for sharing this!

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