Nav: Home

IBEX sheds new light on solar system boundary

October 20, 2015

In 14 papers published in the October 2015 Astrophysical Journal Supplement, scientists present findings from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, mission providing the most definitive analyses, theories and results about local interstellar space to date.

IBEX uses energetic neutral atom imaging to examine how our heliosphere, the magnetic bubble in which our sun and planets reside, interacts with interstellar space. IBEX created the first global maps showing these interactions and how they change over time. IBEX also directly measures interstellar neutral atoms flowing into the solar system; the journal's special issue focuses on these particles.

"Over the past six years, this fundamental work focused on our place in the solar system has become the gold standard for understanding our sun, our heliosphere and the interstellar environment around us," said David McComas, principal investigator of the IBEX mission at the Southwest Research Institute, or SwRI, in San Antonio, Texas.

Eight papers highlight the interstellar helium measurements taken by IBEX and the joint European Space Agency and NASA Ulysses spacecraft, which launched in 1990. These are the only two spacecraft to have directly measured the local interstellar flow of these helium atoms. The studies resolved an inconsistency in the direction and temperature of the interstellar flow in the data gathered by Ulysses compared to those taken by IBEX. Both data sets now affirm that the local interstellar flow is significantly hotter than believed previously based on the Ulysses observations alone, and provide insight into the direction the heliosphere is moving through the local material in the galaxy, as well as how fast it is traveling.

Two papers examine aspects of determining the composition of interstellar particles, looking closely at oxygen, helium, and neon, as well as how those and other particles are effectively measured. The final four papers discuss analysis techniques and related theoretical considerations, such as the effects of radiation pressure and how planetary gravity affects the course of neutral atoms as they travel through the heliosphere.

"Collectively, these papers represent a huge step forward in our understanding of the interstellar medium in the heliophysics community," said McComas.

Initially a two-year mission, funding for IBEX has been extended through 2017, with the potential for mission extensions beyond that. IBEX is one of NASA's series of low-cost, rapidly developed Heliophysics Small Explorer space missions.

"For a Small Explorer, the scientific output has been tremendous," said Eric Christian, IBEX mission scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "These 14 new papers seven years after launch show just how exciting a mission this is."

The Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, leads IBEX with teams of national and international partners. NASA Goddard manages the Explorers Program for the agency's Heliophysics Division within the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
-end-


NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Related Solar System Articles:

From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'
Plumbing a 90 million-year-old layer cake of sedimentary rock in Colorado, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University has found evidence confirming a critical theory of how the planets in our solar system behave in their orbits around the sun.
Why are there different 'flavors' of iron around the Solar System?
New work from Carnegie's Stephen Elardo and Anat Shahar shows that interactions between iron and nickel under the extreme pressures and temperatures similar to a planetary interior can help scientists understand the period in our Solar System's youth when planets were forming and their cores were created.
Does our solar system have an undiscovered planet? You can help astronomers find out
ASU's Adam Schneider and colleagues are hunting for runaway worlds in the space between stars, and citizen scientists can join the search with a new NASA-funded website.
Rare meteorites challenge our understanding of the solar system
Researchers have discovered minerals from 43 meteorites that landed on Earth 470 million years ago.
New evidence on the formation of the solar system
International research involving a Monash University scientist is using new computer models and evidence from meteorites to show that a low-mass supernova triggered the formation of our solar system.
Planet Nine could spell doom for solar system
The solar system could be thrown into disaster when the sun dies if the mysterious 'Planet Nine' exists, according to research from the University of Warwick.
Theft behind Planet 9 in our solar system
Through a computer-simulated study, astronomers at Lund University in Sweden show that it is highly likely that the so-called Planet 9 is an exoplanet.
Studying the solar system with NASA's Webb Telescope
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will look across vast distances to find the earliest stars and galaxies and study the atmospheres of mysterious worlds orbiting other stars.
'This solar system isn't big enough for the both of us.' -- Jupiter
It's like something out of an interplanetary chess game. Astrophysicists at the University of Toronto have found that a close encounter with Jupiter about four billion years ago may have resulted in another planet's ejection from the Solar System altogether.
IBEX sheds new light on solar system boundary
In 14 papers published in the October 2015 Astrophysical Journal Supplement, scientists present findings from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, mission providing the most definitive analyses, theories and results about local interstellar space to date.

Related Solar System Reading:

There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)
by Tish Rabe (Author), Aristides Ruiz (Illustrator)

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (National Geographic Kids)
by David A. Aguilar (Author), David A. Aguilar (Illustrator)

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)
by Catherine D. Hughes (Author), David A. Aguilar (Illustrator)

Solar System Scratch and Sketch: An Activity Book For Inquisitive Artists and Astronauts of All Ages
by Heather Zschock (Author)

Hello, World! Solar System
by Jill McDonald (Author)

Solar System: A Visual Exploration of All the Planets, Moons and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun
by Marcus Chown (Author)

13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System (National Geographic Kids)
by David A. Aguilar (Author)

Vacation Guide to the Solar System: Science for the Savvy Space Traveler!
by Olivia Koski (Author), Jana Grcevich (Author)

Simon and the Solar System
by Derek Taylor Kent (Author), Mary Gutfleisch (Illustrator)

Solar System Reference Poster
by Kappa Map (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Circular
We're told if the economy is growing, and if we keep producing, that's a good thing. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers explore circular systems that regenerate and re-use what we already have. Guests include economist Kate Raworth, environmental activist Tristram Stuart, landscape architect Kate Orff, entrepreneur David Katz, and graphic designer Jessi Arrington.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#504 The Art of Logic
How can mathematics help us have better arguments? This week we spend the hour with "The Art of Logic in an Illogical World" author, mathematician Eugenia Cheng, as she makes her case that the logic of mathematics can combine with emotional resonance to allow us to have better debates and arguments. Along the way we learn a lot about rigorous logic using arguments you're probably having every day, while also learning a lot about our own underlying beliefs and assumptions.