Mach number |
The ratio of the speed of a body to the speed of sound in a particular medium, usually the Earth's atmosphere. For example, an aircraft flying through air at twice the speed of sound has a Mach number of 2. The Mach number of an aircraft travelling at a given velocity depends on the altitude of the aircraft and other atmospheric conditions that affect the speed of sound near the aircraft. See also subsonic, supersonic, transonic.
The speed of an object, measured in multiples of the speed of sound. Thus, an airplane traveling at the speed of sound is said to be at Mach 1; at twice the speed of sound, it is said to be at Mach 2.
Note: The unit is named after Ernst Mach, an Austrian physicist of the nineteenth century.