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:

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

Hacking The Law
We have a vision of justice as blind, impartial, and fair — but in reality, the law often fails those who need it most. This hour, TED speakers explore radical ways to change the legal system. Guests include lawyer and social justice advocate Robin Steinberg, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, political activist Brett Hennig, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Vivek Maru.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#495 Earth Science in Space
Some worlds are made of sand. Some are made of water. Some are even made of salt. In science fiction and fantasy, planet can be made of whatever you want. But what does that mean for how the planets themselves work? When in doubt, throw an asteroid at it. This is a live show recorded at the 2018 Dragon Con in Atlanta Georgia. Featuring Travor Valle, Mika McKinnon, David Moscato, Scott Harris, and moderated by our own Bethany Brookshire. Note: The sound isn't as good as we'd hoped but we love the guests and the conversation and we wanted to...