Aeronautics will always be the first "A" in "NASA" and this image shows why you shouldn't forget it: in a modern version of a 150-year-old photographic technique the shockwaves created by a supersonic T-38C aircraft are captured on camera by scientists at NASA's Armstrong and Ames Research Centers.
Using the brilliant light of the overhead sun as a backdrop, NASA researchers have developed a patent-pending method called Background-Oriented Schlieren using Celestial Objects (BOSCO) to make atmospheric distortions from supersonic shockwaves visible.
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Invented in 1864 by German physicist August Toepler, who developed the technique by photographing electric sparks in a lab, modern air-to-air schlieren photography uses high-speed, high-definition cameras and advanced imaging software to average out background noise and reveal the shockwaves.
(Schlieren comes from the German word for "streak.")
In the crop below the side view of the T-38C can be made out, along with the light coming through the cockpit.
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