The Mathematics Behind a Sonic Boom

Objects that travel faster than the speed of sound (740 mph) are classified as supersonic. Such speed is described by Mach numbers, named after the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach.


A plane moving at the speed of sound is considered to be traveling at Mach 1. When the speed of the plane exceeds Mach 1, an observer may hear a sonic boom, which results from sound waves forming a cone.


The following lesson explains the relationship between the velocity of a moving object and the vertex angle of the sound wave cone it produces.



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