You have probably seen the photo above, and you've probably seen it described as a shot of a sonic boom. That's not quite the case. has a fantastic write-up on a 17 year old photo that has, for years, been believed to be a "sonic boom" but isn't so simple to describe.
does a great job unpacking everything about the story. There's the photographer, Ensign John Gay, who didn't know until much later that it had become famous. There's the widely dispersed photo itself. Then there's the fact that you've been fed a lie, or at least a misconception. There's no sonic boom in the photo.
To be sure: yes, the jet is breaking the sound barrier. Yes, there's a cloud around it as a result of its high speeds. But the reality is that the cloud has nothing to do with the sound barrier or sonic booms. Those effects look a little more like .
Instead, it's an event known as "flow-induced vaporization," or when a fast moving object pools much of the condensation around it in a confined area. It's caused by distortions in the air around the fast moving object, but doesn't form in the same way that, say, a sonic boom breaking the speed of sound does.
So yes, that's a supersonic plane. Yes, there's a cloud around it as a result of its speed. But no, that's not a sonic boom. So head on over to to get the full scoop.