When a water balloon pops in microgravity, waves propagate from the initial point of contact and the final point of contact (where the balloon skin peels away). As these waves come inward toward one another, the water is compressed from its original potato-like shape into a pancake-like one. In most cases, surface tension will provide a damping force on this oscillatory motion, eventually making the water into a sphere. On Earth, in contrast, a water balloon seems to hold its shape after popping. This is because the effect of gravity on the water is much larger than the effect of the propagating waves. This is one reason that it is useful to have a laboratory in space! Without a microgravity environment, it is much harder to study and observe secondary and tertiary-order forces on a physical event. (Video credit: Don Pettit, Science Off The Sphere)
This video explores some of the physics behind the much-loved bursting water balloon. The first sections show some “canonical” cases—dropping water balloons onto a flat rigid surface. In some cases the balloon will bounce and in others it breaks. The bursting water balloons develop strong capillary waves (like ripples) across the upper surface and have some shear-induced deformation of the water surface as the rubber peals away. Then the authors placed a water balloon underwater and vibrated it before bursting it with a pin. They note that the breakdown of the interface between the balloon water and surrounding water shows evidence of Rayleigh-Taylor and Richtmyer-Meshkovinstabilities. The Rayleigh-Taylor instability is the mushroom-like formation observed when stratified fluids of differing densities mix, while the Richtmyer-Meshkov instability is associated with the impulsive acceleration of fluids of differing density.
While this video is not strictly about fluid dynamics, there are some pretty cool high-speed fluids moments in it. Watch the reaction of the gelatins as objects hit them and observe the deformation of the water balloons as they strike. (via JetForMe)