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Are there any natural phenomena on Earth that involves supersonic speeds, other than volcanic tephra and meteoroids?

Edit: By natural I mean not man made like airplanes, rockets, missiles, bullet, etc.

Thanks for the answers. What I first had in mind was a macroscopic body relative to its immediate surrounding. If we're going down to atoms level, I think most of the atoms and all electrons wiggle at supersonic speeds (one could even ask if there any elementary particles that travel at subsonic speeds). Sorry I wasn't clear the first time.

And look at MSalters comment as well

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    $\begingroup$ Define "natural phenomenon". We are bombarded with neutrinos all day, and they are awfully fast. When the sun rises, the line between night and day travels supersonically. Every time someone breaks a glass, the crack tip moves at greater than the speed of sound in air. The list is endless. $\endgroup$ – Floris May 5 '15 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ "supersonic" speeds are not meaningful at small scale. The speed of sound is the sound at which pressure waves travel, i.e. the speed at which a physical displacement of atoms travels between neighboring atoms. That speed at atomic scale is meaningless for subatomic particles. $\endgroup$ – MSalters May 6 '15 at 8:09
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    $\begingroup$ The crack of a whip is the sonic boom from the tip moving faster than sound. But I suppose it does not qualify as it is man-made. $\endgroup$ – hdhondt May 6 '15 at 11:52
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Neutrinos passing through you. Photons from the sun. The tangential velocity of many points on the Earth. The speed of beta particles.

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  • $\begingroup$ A mantis shrimp claw doesnt go that fast. wikipedia says 23 m/s as opposed to the SoS in water 1482 m/s. That being said, still very interesting... $\endgroup$ – Not loved May 5 '15 at 23:55
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    $\begingroup$ The tangential velocity of the north pole is zero; the same with the south pole. In fact, any place north of 42.7°N or south of 42.7°S has a tangential velocity less than the speed of sound. $\endgroup$ – LDC3 May 6 '15 at 5:18
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I am not sure if you mean something like this, since it is man-made but it does not include engines: The tip of a whip can move faster than the speed of sound, this is why it creates this loud noise. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whip for some further information.

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Some dinosaurs may have been able to move their tails in such a way that the tip of the tail achieved supersonic speed (whip-like effect - was mentioned here, but in the case of dinosaurs it is not "man-made":-) ) (https://www.jstor.org/stable/2401127?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents)

EDIT(12/13/2016): There is also a possibility that earthquakes can produce cracks traveling with supersonic speed (http://web.mit.edu/mbuehler/www/research/supersonic.htm)

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Thunder is basically the sonic boom formed by a lightning strike and lightning is as fast as light but the charged air particles move magnitudes slower, closer to but faster than the speed of sound. So when you hear the thunder of a thunderstorm, what you are really hearing is a sonic boom.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would add another common non human induced sonic boom comes from meteors, a spectacular boom here youtube.com/watch?v=6w2AsGazCcg $\endgroup$ – anna v Dec 13 '16 at 6:24
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Tsunami waves are very fast. Speed of tsunami wave in deep ocean may get higher than the speed of sound in the air:

http://wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov/?page=tsunami_science

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure this counts as supersonic. They may be faster than the speed of sound in air, but they are not faster than the speed of sound in water. $\endgroup$ – Jim May 6 '15 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure about the proper use of "supersonic", but the wave crests touch air and they move faster than sound in air. $\endgroup$ – Ján Lalinský May 6 '15 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ The water itself is not moving faster than the air. Tsunamis are transverse waves, so the wavefront can travel faster than the sound speed in air without any individual water molecule travelling that fast. $\endgroup$ – Jim May 6 '15 at 18:04

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