A bright light source and/or speckled background – such as the sun or moon – is necessary for visualizing aerodynamic flow phenomena generated by aircraft or other objects passing between the observer’s camera and the backdrop. This patent-pending method, made possible by improved image processing technology, is called Background-Oriented Schlieren using Celestial Objects, or BOSCO.
Flow visualization is one of the fundamental tools of aeronautics research, and schlieren photography has been used for many years to visualize air density gradients caused by aerodynamic flow. Traditionally, this method has required complex and precisely aligned optics as well as a bright light source. Refracted light rays revealed the intensity of air density gradients around the test object, usually a model in a wind tunnel. Capturing schlieren images of a full-scale aircraft in flight was even more challenging due to the need for precise alignment of the plane with the camera and the sun.
Using the solar disk as a backdrop, this image reveals details using a calcium-K optical filter. Researchers processed this image to reveal shock waves created by a supersonic T-38C.
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