Millions hear sonic boom as RAF Typhoon breaks sound barrier


Sonic BOOM over Britain: Millions hear ‘explosion’ as RAF Typhoon breaks sound barrier while soaring over Cambridge and London

  • Millions of people across the South reported hearing a sonic boom at lunchtime
  • Heard across Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Cambridge, north and south London 
  • Military tracking sites suggested it was fighter plane breaking the sound barrier

Millions of people heard a sonic boom after an RAF Tycoon was scrambled this afternoon. 

Residents across Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Cambridge, north and south London reported hearing an ‘explosion’ shortly after 1pm today. 

While it remains unclear exactly what happened, aviation and military tracking sites suggested it was the sonic boom from a fighter plane breaking the sound barrier en route to intercept another aircraft.

Residents across Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Cambridge, north and south London reported hearing an ‘explosion’ shortly after 1pm today

Aviation and military tracking sites suggested it was the sonic boom from a fighter plane breaking the sound barrier

Aviation and military tracking sites suggested it was the sonic boom from a fighter plane breaking the sound barrier

It is believed a Eurofighter Typhoon taking off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire was the source of the boom

It is believed a Eurofighter Typhoon taking off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire was the source of the boom

It is believed a Eurofighter Typhoon taking off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire was the source of the boom. 

TV presenter Rylan Clark-Neal tweeted: ‘Wish I’d checked Twitter before I decided to single handedly , automatic wine opener in hand inspect upstairs thinking a flying burglar had broken into my loft that was bloody loud.’ 

The bang was heard this afternoon, setting off car alarms and shaking windows.  

Depending on the aircraft’s altitude, a sonic boom will be heard at ground level two to 60 seconds after it breaks the speed of sound.

The distance from which the boom can be heard is approximately one mile per 1,000 feet of altitude.

A supersonic aircraft travelling at an altitude of 30,000ft would cause a lateral boom of about 30 miles.

What is a sonic boom? 

A sonic boom is a thunder-like noise a person on the ground hears when an aircraft or other type of aerospace vehicle flies overhead faster than the speed of sound, or ‘supersonic.’

Air reacts like fluid to supersonic objects. As those objects travel through the air, molecules are pushed aside with great force and this forms a shock wave, much like a boat creates a wake in water. The bigger and heavier the aircraft, the more air it displaces.  

The shock wave forms a ‘cone’ of pressurized or built-up air molecules, which move outward and rearward in all directions and extend all the way to the ground. 

As this cone spreads across the landscape along the flight path, it creates a continu­ous sonic boom along the full width of the cone’s base. The sharp release of pressure, after the buildup by the shock wave, is heard as the sonic boom.

The change in air pressure associated with a sonic boom is only a few pounds per square foot – about the same pressure change experienced riding an elevator down two or three floors. 

It is the rate of change, the sudden changing of the pressure, which makes the sonic boom audible. 

Source: NASA 

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