US Navy Photo
Every so often, just the right combination of conditions and events occur to create an unbelievable event -- in this case an F/A-18 Hornet passing through the sound barrier. Not only were the water vapor, density and temperature just right, but there just happened to be a camera in the vicinity to capture the moment. Navy Ensign John Gay made this phenomenal photograph on July 7, 1999 while aboard the carrier USS Constallation as Navy Lt. Ron Candiloro flew by.

The plane is actually in transonic flight, with normal shock waves emanating from behind the canopy and across the wings and fuselage. The condition will last for only an instant, and once supersonic flow exists completely around the aircraft, sharp-angled sonic cones replace the normal shock waves.

An MPEG movie of the flyby is also available.

I'm not sure if there are any copyright issues with the MPEG movie. I received it as an attachment to an email message which had been forwared through several people before it reached me. I know that the photograph was published recently in LIFE magazine, and I also found a higher resolution image at the official site of the US Navy.