1 What is a sonic boom?
A sonic boom is a shock wave produced by an aircraft or other flying objects such as rockets, gliders, airships, autogyros, and spacecraft, at speed equal to or exceeding the space of sound. The sound produced is so loud that it can easily be heard from the ground. The shock wave sounds very similar to a clap of thunder.
2 What causes the Sonic boom?
Sonic boom creates vast amounts of sound energy and sounds like an explosion to the human ear. The sonic boom produces sound waves when an aircraft travels through the air. If the plane is moving slower than the sound speed, then sound waves can propagate ahead of the plane. Whereas, if the plane is moving faster than the speed of sound, it makes pressure waves in front and behind, leading to a sonic boom.
3 Other examples of the sonic boom
The loud noise is produced when a bullet is fired from a gun. In this case, the sonic boom is produced just because the bullet travels at supersonic speed, which is faster than the speed of sound. You might have also noticed some guns do not make noise; it is because the silencers used for those guns make the bullet travel at a subsonic speed.
The sonic boom can also be experienced while cracking a whip through the air. The sound is produced because of the same reason: whip breaks the sound barrier by travelling at a supersonic speed. However, the whip is not a giant object; the sonic boom produced cannot cause any structural damage.
4 Why are the airplanes not allowed to fly at a low altitude?
The sole reason is that the sonic boom is produced by all the aircraft. If an aeroplane flies at a lower altitude, the loud boom can tremor the ground and damage the buildings/structures.
5 How far can you hear a sonic boom?
Let's suppose an aircraft travels at an altitude of 50,000 feet at a supersonic speed above the ground; it can produce a sonic boom cone about 50 miles wide. Moreover, the width of the boom 'carpet' beneath the aircraft is about one mile for every 1,000 feet of altitude.
6 Why do the pilot and passengers cannot hear a sonic boom?
The pilot and passengers cannot listen to the sonic boom sound created by the plane they are sitting in. It is because they are at the head of the Mach cone. In other words, along with the aeroplane, the pilot and passengers are moving at supersonic speed; that's why the sonic boom does not get a chance to catch up to them.
7 Is thunder a sonic boom?
The sound of thunder is considered a sonic boom. The thunder that a storm makes is caused by lightening, facilitating air to move faster than the speed of sound.