Here are the wave-front models for both: enter image description here

I am in an introductory physics course. Just learned about this. I am not entirely sure if sonic boom is louder. But from what I saw, it's loudness is certainly being emphasized more than the sound of an object traveling at the speed of sound makes.

My understanding is that for both, their loudness come from the constructive interference of their wavefront overlapping. But from this picture, I see no reason why there has to be more constructive interference for sonic boom than there has for the speed of sound.

  • $\begingroup$ I think you're right and wiki seems to confirm this: The power, or volume, of the shock wave is dependent on the quantity of air that is being accelerated, and thus the size and shape of the aircraft. As the aircraft increases speed the shock cone gets tighter around the craft and becomes weaker to the point that at very high speeds and altitudes no boom is heard. $\endgroup$ – LLlAMnYP Jul 30 '15 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ The sound made by the aircraft isn't that important. A rifle bullet is silent but makes a sonic boom. So would a glider travelling faster than the speed of sound. $\endgroup$ – Martin Kochanski Jul 25 '16 at 12:21

The sonic boom is not just the combination of the engine noise and ordinary sounds of the plane, smashed together because of the speed. It is the propagating effect of the air being smashed into by the plane, faster than the air can get out of the way. The amount it compresses the air depends on how fast the plane is going, and the loudness of the sound you eventually hear depends on how much the air was compressed. So higher speeds will lead to a stronger sonic boom.


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