Navy Ensign John Gay captured this photo of an F/A-18 Hornet breaking the sound barrier. The picture won first prize in Science and Technology in the World Press Photo 2000 contest.
Gay snapped the photo from the USS Constellation aircraft carrier. The pilot is Lieutenant Ron Candiloro.
The cloud ball is formed by sound waves compressing moisture as the plane flies low over water. According to Gay: “You get this loud boom, and it’s instantaneous. The vapor cloud is there, and then it’s not there. It’s the coolest thing you have ever seen.”
There’s some dispute about exactly what’s going on in this picture, but the phenomenon was verified by a university physics professor and explained in detail on TruthOrFiction.com.