What Is Sonic Boom: Definition & Causes

Have you ever heard a large booming sound like an explosion when an airplane flies above your head? This sound is known as a supersonic boom. Let’s find out what it is and how it is produced?

3 years ago
What Is Sonic Boom: Definition & Causes

An explosive sound produced by an object which is similar to a thunder like noise heard when any aerospace vehicle travels by. This particular type of the sound is known as Sonic Boom. It is a kind of shock wave produced by the object when it travels in the air faster than the speed of the sound energy. The outburst created by aircraft or airplanes is just a booming sound created by the waves.

Source = Spikeaerospace

The speed of the aero vehicles is known as Super Sonic Speed and thus the phenomenon of the large sound is known as Super Sonic Boom. The sound observed by the people is mentioned as the clap of the thunder when heard from the ground.

Source = H-cdn

When the size of the vehicle is huge then it is responsible for displacing a lot of air molecules.The supersonic boom is caused by the waves which are generated when the plane is flying in the sky.

The air particles which comes on the way are pushed with a great force aside. As a result, the waves produced creates an explosive sound.

Illustration With Example

Source = Wordpress

To make it simple in understanding here is an example of boat bow waves or waves produced by the pebble thrown in the pond or a lake.

The pebble creates a concentric wave which moves away from the center position while in a case of a boat when it travels shock waves are generated which moves ahead and away making the boat to move ahead in the water also known as boat waves.

This kind of the waves is responsible for creating large booming sound in the atmosphere when a plane flies overhead in the air.

Altitude Effect


The intensity of the sound generally depends on the altitude. The plane flying at higher altitudes produce less noise in comparison to the plane which is at lower altitudes.

Boom Carpet

Source = Nasa

The width of the Sonic boom carpet is one mile for thousand feet of altitude. For example, if an aircraft is at the height of 50000 feet, it would cover an area of 50 miles.

How Does It Work?

Source = Businessinsider

The shock waves start at the nose and end on the tail of the aircraft. It produces different radial directions which result in the cone similar to as of vapor called Mach cone.

When the aircraft moves ahead, a parabolic edge of the cone intercept with the Earth causing a sharp bang.

Measurement Of Sonic Boom

Source = Extremetech

The intensity of the sonic boom is not only measured by the distance between the Aircraft and the ground but it also depends on the shape of the aircraft, atmospheric temperature, pressure, and winds. If the airspace vehicle is long then double sonic boom may be detected one at the front and the other one is caused at the end.

Source = Ni

It is measured in pounds per square feet of overpressure. As the overpressure increases the damage possibilities increases and the reaction of people also increase.

Health Impact

Source = Mic

This large supersonic boom is not good for the health of the people who reside near the airports. It is said that there is an increase in the incidence of the vibroacoustic disease in the people. This disease was recorded by the US Navy during the testing in Vieques. This disease causes the thickening  of the heart tissue in the person. Therefore it is advisable to purchase a house which is far from the airport area.

Source = Aerotechnews

NASA is working on to develop an aircraft which produces less sound in the environment. NASA and Honeywell teamed up teamed up together to develop a sonic boom software to measure its area covered and its intensity.

Hope now you might have understood about SuperSonic Boom and its consequences.

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