measure of speed relative to the speed of sound (technically Mach number), 1937, named in honor of Austrian physicist Ernst Mach (1838-1916).
Austrian physicist and philosopher who experimented with supersonic projectiles and the flow of gases, obtaining early photographs of shock waves and gas jets. His work laid an important foundation for later developments in the science of projectiles and aeronautical design, and the Mach number and Mach bands were named for him.
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.