This YouTube video purports to be of a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center in 2010.

It shows a rocket reaching the speed of sound, and creating a sonic boom at the same time as the rocket passes through a "sun dog", and the resultant ripples appearing through the atmosphere.

This video was cited on a Lithuanian technology news website, with the claim that the ascending rocket has managed to "tear a rainbow (sun dog) apart" (my translation, the headline contains other catch phrases as well): NASA raketa suplėšė vaivorykštę (Video) The article cites the expert of atmospheric optics, Les Cowley, explaining this phenomenon.

The video is also referenced on It's Okay to be Smart blog.

The thing is, I have seen a lot of rocket launches, but I have never seen an atmospheric ripple effect like this before and that is the thing that I'm skeptical about.

Does this video show an authentic meteorological rippling effect?

The rippling effect

  • 1
    Clicking through to get to the YT video itself and looking at the comments, I got this video that shows the same effect from a different angle at 9:45.
    – DevSolar
    Jul 16, 2018 at 15:22
  • 2
    There are a number of videos of this launch, amateur and professional, many of which catch this phenomenon, but others of which don't. (There are many sites from which one can watch a launch. Apparently you had to be at the right one.) There are a number of photographs of the phenomenon such as this Astronomy Picture Of the Day (copyrighted, so please don't reproduce in an answer). Doubting the explanation, yes, that falls in the realm of this site, but why would you doubt this happened? Jul 17, 2018 at 21:06
  • 1
    I can't see the video, but if it is anything like others I have seen claiming a "sonic boom" that's not quite right: popularmechanics.com/flight/a19466/…
    – JasonR
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:50
  • 1
    @SebastianRedl you can see it on the upper right part of the video around 1:52, just before the ripples appear.
    – Ernis
    Jul 20, 2018 at 10:50
  • 1
    @DanielRHicks you say that shockwaves "would reflect sunlight" - can you explain what the reflective surface would be...
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 20, 2018 at 12:38


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