Best of Web Fall 2023 – Austin Sommars – Falcon 9 Exhaust Plume

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off and leaves a trail of flames below.

Best of Web Fall 2023 – Austin Sommars – Falcon 9 Exhaust Plume

This image captures the exhaust plume of a Falcon 9 rocket shortly after liftoff to in Cape Canaveral, FL. I enjoy this photo because it displays the transition of high-velocity laminar exhaust at the nozzle exit to a relatively low-velocity turbulent plume as the gases interact with each other and the surrounding atmosphere. When visualized in a single frame, you can see the laminar portion of the flow consists of neat and orderly lines of varying shades of orange, and as the flow separates further from the nozzle it becomes more chaotic and cloudlike. I’ve always had a knack for exhaust plumes, both from jet engines, and rockets. I find them very interesting visually and fascinating from an engineering and physics perspective.

The photographer, John Kraus, has an amazing portfolio of aerospace-related content. I recommend checking out some of his more recent work here

Photo Credit: John Kraus

Kraus, J. (2018, April). Falcon-9-Tess [April 2018]. John Kraus.

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Qisheng Lei
    Sep 11, 2023 22:17

    First Prize. Flames from multiple plumes merge into one just looks satisfying and natural to me. It’s great to see everything in details including the small particles on the right as well.

  • Third Prize
    Seeing the exhaust in such high definition is quite breathtaking. Such a powerful reaction is quite the sight.

  • Venkata Ramana Murty Durvasula
    Sep 11, 2023 10:48

    First Prize: I have never seen the emissions from rocket in such detail. It is such an interesting image

  • Ciaran Rochling
    Sep 11, 2023 09:51

    First Prize!

    The Falcon 9 launch image is a prime example of flow visualization deserving first prize!
    It beautifully captures the dynamic interaction of fluid and aerodynamics during liftoff, with stunning contrasts between the rocket’s plumes and articulating nozzles. This image powerfully conveys the essence of flow visualization, showcasing both the scientific and aesthetic aspects of this field.

    Well done!

  • Jonathon Gruener
    Sep 10, 2023 18:55

    Second Prize.

    I really appreciate the detail in this picture. Seeing the transition from laminar to turbulent flow is really cool and not something we get to see every day. Especially when its exhaust coming out of a rocket!

  • Parick Watson
    Sep 10, 2023 15:20

    Second Prize – The Falcon 9 plume is seriously up there in my book for beauty and scientific chaos. The characteristic orange plume of a kerosene burning engine shows the chaotic flow regime incredibly well. The hot streaks coming out the of the nozzles act like stream lines and show the transition from laminar to super chaotic and displays the beauty among flow science.


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