The Mach Number is not a direct measurement of speed, but it is a type of ratio. This is because, from one location to the next, the speed of sound will vary. This is largely due to changes in air density and temperature. This means that there is no specific number for this, but there is a formula that is used to determine the overall speed in a specific location.
Getting Specific About the Mach Number
The ratio used to determine the Mach Number is quite specific and it is the ratio of the speed of an aircraft, or a similar body, to the speed of sound. This is in an undisturbed medium in which a body is traveling. So, if something is said to be flying at Mach 1, the speed of the aircraft is equal to the speed of sound within the air. When someone is said to be flying at Mach 2, it is flying at twice the speed of sound within the air. This goes on as you increase the numbers.
Exploring the Speed of Sound
To better understand the Mach Number, you want to know a little bit more about the speed of sound. This will depend on the air’s temperature that the sound is moving through. For example, if you are looking at Earth at sea level, you can determine the speed of sound for this specific area. If the temperature of the air at sea level is 59 degrees Fahrenheit, the speed of sound for this specific area will be approximately 761.2 miles per hour. Of course, this varies as the temperature changes.
You can see that Mach 1 is an interesting measurement. It can provide a lot of information when you know how to properly utilize the ratio. One of the most common uses is associated with aircrafts.