Friday 13 April 2012

What is a Sonic Boom?

If you live in the South of England you likely will have heard a big loud bang yesterday afternoon which sounded much like thunder. We were dashing from the car in the pouring rain when we heard the loud crash and I made a comment to the children about there being a thunder storm. However, there was no lightening and no further thunder. It seemed a little odd, but in the dash to get dry I thought nothing more about it until Garden Dad came home and asked if we had heard the sonic boom. I explained to our Little Garden Helpers that the thunder we thought we had heard earlier was not actually thunder but a sonic boom. Inevitably, Garden Girl asked 'What is a sonic boom?' and the best I could offer by way of explanation was 'a very loud noise'.

I promised to find out for her and this evening I found a good explanation on the BBC website which talks about things like pressure and the speed of sound. It is worth a watch to get the full explanation, especially if you have older children looking for a more accurate and detailed insight, but I have put together a simpler explantion which I think will be more accessible for young children and which I hope remains more or less scientifically correct.

In very simple terms, the sonic boom yesterday was caused by an aircraft flying so fast that the air it was moving through could not move out of the way fast enough. As the aircraft hit the air it created a loud bang. Apparantly the sound of thunder is created in the same way, as lightening strikes the air at such high speeds that it essentially bangs into the air before it can move out of the way.

To find a fuller explantion take a look at the BBC website here.

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