As you might know, Tesla went and launched one of their roadster vehicles into space some time back. I’m still not sure why, but I guess it was because Elon Musk could. So, in that spirit, because we have a facility that can generate hypersonic flow, my colleague Harald and I decided to see what it would look like if an alien decided to drive it back to Earth… So if you are curious, this is what a Tesla roadster would look like if it were entering the upper atmosphere at Mach 10. Harald used a technique called colour schlieren to visualise the shock waves around the vehicle, and front-illuminated the vehicle so it looks like the vehicle rather than a shadow. The colours near the end of the video have nothing to do with the hypersonic flow, but are either caused by the high temperature reacting with the paint on the car or is old rubidium that we used for previous experiments in the tunnel, still left over from those experiments.
The car was a little toy Matchbox Tesla Roadster model. Just a bit of fun, but a nice illustration of how interesting and complex hypersonic flow can be, and a showcase for Harald’s talent!