IBEX: Interstellar Boundary Explorer

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IBEX: Interstellar Boundary Explorer

Post by The Code » Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:05 am

Cosmos: Mysterious band of particles

Mysterious band of particles holds clues to Solar System's future.

http://archive.cosmosmagazine.com/news/ ... ms-future/
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/3251 ... ems-future

Interesting read.
Always trying to find the answers

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Re: Mysterious band of particles

Post by neufer » Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:28 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_Boundary_Explorer wrote:
<<Interstellar Boundary EXplorer (IBEX) is a NASA satellite that will make the first map of the boundary between the Solar System and interstellar space. The mission is part of NASA's Small Explorer program. The IBEX satellite was launched with a Pegasus-XL rocket on October 19, 2008. The nominal mission baseline duration will be two years to observe the entire solar system boundary.
  • The IBEX: a sun-oriented spin-stabilized
    spacecraft in orbit around the Earth.

    Image
The heliospheric boundary of the Solar System will be imaged by measuring the location and magnitude of charge-exchange collisions occurring in all directions. This will ultimately yield a map of the termination shock of the solar wind. The satellite's payload consists of two energetic neutral atom (ENA) imagers, IBEX-Hi and IBEX-Lo. Each of these sensors consists of a collimator that limits their fields-of-view, a conversion surface to convert neutral hydrogen and oxygen into ions, an electrostatic analyzer (ESA) to suppress ultraviolet light and to select ions of a specific energy range, and a detector to count particles and identify the type of each ion. The IBEX-Hi instrument will record particle counts in a higher energy band than the IBEX-Lo does.

The IBEX is in a highly-eccentric elliptical terrestrial orbit, which ranges from a perigee of about 8,000 kilometres (5,000 mi) to an apogee of about 300,000 kilometres (190,000 mi), that is, about three-quarters of the distance to the Moon. This very high orbit allows the IBEX satellite to move out of the Earth's magnetosphere (the Van Allen Belts) when making sciencific observations. This extreme altitude is critical due to the amount of charged-particle interference that would occur while taking images while within the radiation belts. When within the magnetosphere of the Earth (70,000 kilometres/43,000 miles), the satellite will perform other functions, including telemetry downlinks.

IBEX is collecting Energetic neutral atom (ENA) emissions that are traveling through the solar system to Earth that cannot be measured by conventional telescopes. These ENAs are created on the boundary of our Solar System by the interactions between solar wind particles and interstellar medium particles.

Initial data revealed a previously unpredicted "very narrow ribbon that is two to three times brighter than anything else in the sky."

The bright ribbon of ENA emission as seen in the IBEX map.
Image

Initial interpretations suggest that "the interstellar environment has far more influence on structuring the heliosphere than anyone previously believed" "No one knows what is creating the ENA (energetic neutral atoms) ribbon, but everyone agrees that it means the textbook picture of the heliosphere—in which the solar system's enveloping pocket filled with the solar wind's charged particles is plowing through the onrushing "galactic wind" of the interstellar medium in the shape of a comet—is wrong." The Sun is currently traveling through the Local Interstellar Cloud, and the heliosphere's size and shape are key factors in determining its shielding power from cosmic rays. Should IBEX detect changes in the shape of the ribbon, that could show how the heliosphere is interacting with the Local Fluff.>>
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Will the Sun Enter a Million-Degree Interstellar Gas Cloud

Post by bystander » Tue May 25, 2010 5:09 pm

Ribbon at Edge of Our Solar System: Will the Sun Enter a Million-Degree Cloud of Interstellar Gas?
Science Daily - 24 May 2010
Is the Sun going to enter a million-degree galactic cloud of interstellar gas soon?

Scientists ... suggest that the ribbon of enhanced emissions of energetic neutral atoms, discovered last year by the NASA Small Explorer satellite IBEX, could be explained by a geometric effect coming up because of the approach of the Sun to the boundary between the Local Cloud of interstellar gas and another cloud of a very hot gas called the Local Bubble. If this hypothesis is correct, IBEX is catching matter from a hot neighboring interstellar cloud, which the Sun might enter in a hundred years.

First full-sky maps of the emissions of energetic neutral atoms (ENA), obtained last year by IBEX, showed a surprising arc-like feature called the Ribbon. This astonishing discovery was later announced by NASA as one of the most important findings in space exploration made in 2009. Shortly after the discovery six hypotheses were proposed to explain the Ribbon, all of them predicting its relation to processes going on within the heliosphere or in its neighborhood.
Image
Schematic diagram summarizing the six possible sources of the ribbon of enhanced ENA emissions in the IBEX data
identified by McComas, et al. [2009b].
In a paper recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, a Polish-US team of scientists led by Prof. Stan Grzedzielski from the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland, offers a different explanation. "We observe the Ribbon," says Grzedzielski "because the Sun is approaching a boundary between our Local Cloud of interstellar gas and another cloud of a very hot and turbulent gas."
...
The model developed by the Polish-US team suggests that the boundary between the Local Cloud and the Local Bubble might be not within a few light years from the Sun, as it was believed earlier, but within just a thousand of astronomical units, a thousand-fold closer. This might mean that the Solar System could enter the million-degree Local Bubble cloud as early as the next century. "Nothing unusual, the Sun frequently traverses various clouds of interstellar gas during its galactic journey," comments Grzedzielski. Such clouds are of very low density, much lower than the best vacuum obtained in Earth labs. Once in, the heliosphere will reform and may shrink a little, the level of cosmic radiation entering the magnetosphere may rise a bit, but nothing more. "Perhaps future generations will have to learn how to better harden their space hardware against stronger radiation," suggests Grzedzielski.
Image

A Possible Generation Mechanism for the IBEX Ribbon from Outside the Heliosphere

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SwRI: IBEX mission yields intriguing solar system studies

Post by bystander » Mon Aug 16, 2010 4:26 pm

IBEX mission yields intriguing studies about solar system, lively debate among researchers
Southwest Research Institute | via EurekAlert | 16 Aug 2010
Since its October 2008 launch, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft has mapped the invisible interactions occurring at the edge of the solar system, surpassing its mission objectives with images that reveal the interactions between our home in the galaxy and interstellar space to be surprisingly structured and intense.

Less than two years later, its science program has also flourished into multiple research studies extending way beyond the original scope of the mission.
...
IBEX provides global imaging of the interstellar boundary much like a weather satellite provides data about global and regional weather patterns on Earth. The Voyager spacecraft are like weather stations and provide pioneering point measurements of interactions in the interstellar boundary region from their two locations. Using the most sensitive neutral atom detectors ever flown in space, IBEX went far beyond those measurements by unveiling a striking, narrow ribbon of particles two to three times more intense than anything else in the sky. The Voyager measurements gave no indication of the ribbon's presence and no theories or models had previously predicted its existence.

Building on those first images of the interstellar boundary, the spacecraft has also directly collected hydrogen and oxygen from the interstellar medium for the first time and made the first observations of very fast hydrogen atoms coming from the Moon, following decades of speculation and searching for their existence. Hydrogen from the Sun's million mile per hour solar wind becomes embedded in the Moon's surface, so IBEX's measurements of the fraction of hydrogen atoms that bounce off the surface sheds critical light on the "recycling" processes undertaken by particles throughout the solar system and beyond.

Most recently, IBEX data have been extended to observe the Earth's magnetosphere from the outside. The magnetic bubble that surrounds the Earth and interacts with the solar wind flowing out from the Sun has been studied extensively with various instruments and spacecraft from within, but IBEX has enabled the first direct observations from the outside.

Just as the interstellar boundary shields the solar system from the majority of galactic cosmic ray radiation, so does the magnetosphere protect Earth from solar particle radiation. IBEX data show the pileup of the solar wind in front of the magnetopause, the boundary between the Earth's magnetosphere and interplanetary space, giving important new details about the processes that protect Earth's atmosphere.

A number of other studies on the magnetosphere are in progress, including studies of the "night side," the plasma sheet, the tail and other magnetospheric structures.
IBEX Researchers Quantify How Earth's Magnetosphere Protects the Planet From the Solar Wind
Lockheed Martin Company | 16 Aug 2010
It has long been known that the Earth's magnetic field provides a protective barrier for life on Earth. As energetic particles stream outward from the Sun in the form of the solar wind, they are deflected by a "force field" created by the Earth's magnetosphere. Now, a team of scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Palo Alto, Calif., and several other institutions have used data from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) to understand precisely how the process works.

IBEX, a NASA Small Explorer Mission, was launched into Earth orbit on October 19, 2008 to discover the global interaction between the solar wind and the interstellar medium – the gas, dust and radiation environment between the stars – by measuring the neutral atoms created by that interaction. Because the IBEX spacecraft is in orbit around the Earth, however, it is unavoidable that it views our planet and its magnetosphere during parts of the year. While "looking back" at the Earth, IBEX is able to examine the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetosphere in unprecedented detail, because of two exquisitely sensitive energetic neutral atom cameras on the spacecraft.
...
The interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetosphere that creates this charge exchange process is detailed in a paper – "Energetic Neutral Atoms from the Earth's Subsolar Magnetopause" – published recently by the American Geophysical Union.
Energetic Neutral Atoms from the Earth's Subsolar Magnetopause - SA Fuselier et al

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GSFC: IBEX Spacecraft Finds Discoveries Close to Home

Post by bystander » Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:57 pm

IBEX Spacecraft Finds Discoveries Close to Home
NASA GSFC | IBEX Mission Pages | 16 Aug 2010
Imagine floating 35,000 miles above the sunny side of Earth. Our home planet gleams below, a majestic whorl of color and texture. All seems calm around you. With no satellites or space debris to dodge, you can just relax and enjoy the black emptiness of space.

But looks can be deceiving.

In reality, you've unknowingly jumped into an invisible mosh pit of electromagnetic mayhem — the place in space where a supersonic "wind" of charged particles from the Sun crashes head-on into the protective magnetic bubble that surrounds our planet. Traveling at a million miles per hour, the solar wind's protons and electrons sense Earth's magnetosphere too late to flow smoothly around it. Instead, they're shocked, heated, and slowed almost to a stop as they pile up along its outer boundary, the magnetopause, before getting diverted sideways.

Space physicists have had a general sense of these dynamic goings-on for decades. But it wasn't until the advent of the Interstellar Boundary Explorer or IBEX, a NASA spacecraft launched in October 2008, that they've been able to see what the human eye cannot: the first-ever images of this electromagnetic crash scene. They can now witness how some of the solar wind's charged particles are being neutralized by gas escaping from Earth's atmosphere.

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SwRI: Knot in ribbon at edge of solar system unties

Post by bystander » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:58 pm

Knot in the ribbon at the edge of the solar system "unties"
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) | 29 Sept 2010
The unusual "knot" in the bright, narrow ribbon of neutral atoms emanating in from the boundary between our solar system and interstellar space appears to have "untied," according to a paper published online in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Researchers believe the ribbon, first revealed in maps produced by NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft, forms in response to interactions between interstellar space and the heliosphere, the protective bubble in which the Earth and other planets reside. Sensitive neutral atom detectors aboard IBEX produce global maps of this region every six months.

Analyses of the first map, released last fall, suggest the ribbon is somehow ordered by the direction of the local interstellar magnetic field outside the heliosphere, influencing the structure of the heliosphere more than researchers had previously believed. The knot feature seen in the northern portion of the ribbon in the first map stood apart from the rest of the ribbon as the brightest feature at higher energies.

While the second map, released publicly with the just-published paper, shows the large-scale structure of the ribbon to be generally stable within the six-month period, changes are also apparent. The polar regions of the ribbon display lower emissions and the knot diminishes by as much as a third and appears to "untie" as it spreads out to both lower and higher latitudes.

"What we're seeing is the knot pull apart as it spreads across a region of the ribbon," says Dr. David J. McComas, IBEX principal investigator and an assistant vice president at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "To this day the science team can't agree on exactly what causes the knot or the ribbon, but by comparing different sky maps we find the surprising result that the region is changing over relatively short time periods. Now we have to figure out why."

As the IBEX spacecraft gathers a wealth of new information about the dynamic interactions at the edge of the solar system — the region of space that shields our solar system from the majority of galactic cosmic ray radiation — the IBEX team continues to study numerous theories about the source of the ribbon and its unusual features.
Image
  • The IBEX science team compares the first and second maps to reveal whether there are time variations in the ribbon or the more distributed emissions around the ribbon. This animation fades between the first and second IBEX maps. We see that the first and second maps are relatively similar; however, there are significant time variations as well. These time variations are forcing scientists to try to understand how the heliosphere can be changing so rapidly.

    Credit: IBEX Science Team/Goddard Space Flight Center
Image
  • One of the clear features visible in the IBEX maps is an apparent knot in the ribbon. Scientists were anxious to see how this structure would change with time. The second map showed that the knot in the ribbon somehow spread out. It is as if the knot in the ribbon was literally untangled over only six months. This visualization shows a close-up of the ribbon (green and red) superimposed on the stars and constellations in the nighttime sky. The animation begins by looking toward the nose of the heliosphere and then pans up and left to reveal the knot. The twisted structure superimposed on the map is an artist's conception of the tangled up ribbon. The animation then shows this structure untangling as we fade into the second map of the heliosphere.

    Credit: IBEX Science Team/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio/ESA
IBEX Finds Surprising Changes at Solar Boundary
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) | 29 Sept 2010
When NASA launched the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) on October 19, 2008, space physicists held their collective breath for never-before-seen views of a collision zone far beyond the planets, roughly 10 billion miles away. That’s where the solar wind, an outward rush of charged particles and magnetic fields continuously spewed by the Sun, runs into the flow of particles and fields that permeates interstellar space in our neighborhood of the Milky Way galaxy.

No spacecraft had ever imaged the collision zone, which occurs in a region known as the heliosheath, because it emits no light. But the two detectors on IBEX are designed to “see” what the human eye cannot. The interaction of the solar wind and interstellar medium creates energetic neutral atoms of hydrogen, called ENAs, that zip away from the heliosheath in all directions. Some of these atoms pass near Earth, where IBEX records their arrival direction and energy. As the spacecraft slowly spins, the detectors gradually build up pictures of the ENAs as they arrive from all over the sky.

Mission scientists got their first surprise six months after launch, once the spacecraft had scanned enough overlapping strips of sky to create a complete 360° map. Instead of recording a relatively even distribution all the way around, as expected, IBEX found that the counts of ENAs — and thus the strength of the interaction in the heliosheath — varied dramatically from place to place. The detectors even discovered a long, enhanced “ribbon,” accentuated by an especially intense hotspot or “knot,” arcing across the sky. (IBEX Explores Galactic Frontier, Releases First-Ever All-Sky Map)

Now scientists have finished assembling a second complete sweep around the sky, and IBEX has again delivered an unexpected result: the map has changed significantly. Overall, the intensity of ENAs has dropped 10% to 15%, and the hotspot has diminished and spread out along the ribbon. Details of these findings appear in the September 27th issue of Journal of Geophysical Research (Space Physics).
IBEX Mission Shows Evolution Of Conditions At Edge Of Solar System
NASA Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) | 30 Sept 2010
New data from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, spacecraft, reveal that conditions at the edge of our solar system may be much more dynamic than previously thought. Future exploration missions will benefit in design and mission objectives from a better understanding of the changing conditions in this outer region of our solar system.

The IBEX has produced a new set of "all-sky" maps of our solar system's interaction with the galaxy, allowing researchers to continue viewing and studying the interaction between our galaxy and sun. The new maps reveal changing conditions in the region that separates the nearest reaches of our galaxy, called the local interstellar medium, from our heliosphere -- a protective bubble that shields and protects our solar system.

In October 2009, scientists announced that the first map data produced by IBEX revealed an unpredicted bright ribbon of energetic neutral atoms emanating toward the sun from the edge of the solar system. This discovery was unexpected to scientists, because the ribbon of bright emissions did not resemble any previous theoretical models of the region.
...
This second set of all-sky maps, created using data collected during six months of observations, show the evolution of the interstellar boundary region. The maps help delineate the interstellar boundary region, the area at the edge of our solar system that shields it from most of the dangerous galactic cosmic radiation that would otherwise enter from interstellar space. The new findings were published this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.
Evolving outer heliosphere: Large-scale stability and time variations
observed by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer
- DJ McComas et al

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Re: SwRI: IBEX mission yields intriguing solar system studie

Post by neufer » Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:02 am

http://asterisk.apod.com/vie ... 31&t=18120

-------------------------------------------
The Sponge

KRAMER: I tell ya, there's some people, they just wear a ribbon and they think they're doin' something? Not me. I talk the talk, and I walk the walk, baby. <gets up> I'll be right back.

ORGANIZER: Uh...o.k., you're checked in. Here's your AIDS ribbon.

KRAMER: Uh, no thanks.

ORGANIZER: You don't want to wear an AIDS ribbon?

KRAMER: No.

ORGANIZER: But you have to wear an AIDS ribbon.

KRAMER: I have to?

ORGANIZER: Yes.

KRAMER: See, that's why I don't want to.

ORGANIZER: But everyone wears the ribbon. You must wear the ribbon!

KRAMER: You know what you are? You're a ribbon bully. <Walks away.>

WALKER #1: Hey, where's your ribbon?

KRAMER: Oh, I don't wear the ribbon.

WALKER #2: Oh, you don't wear the ribbon? Aren't you against AIDS?

KRAMER: Yeah, I'm against AIDS. I mean, I'm walking, aren't I? I just don't wear the ribbon.

WALKER #3: Who do you think you are?

WALKER #1: Put the ribbon on!

WALKER #2: Hey, Cedric! Bob! This guy won't wear a ribbon! <Cedric and Bob turn around and glare at Kramer.>

BOB: Who? Who does not want to wear the ribbon? <Kramer is frightened.>

BOB: So! What's it going to be? Are you going to wear the ribbon?

KRAMER (nervously): No! Never.

BOB: But I am wearing the ribbon. He is wearing the ribbon. We are all wearing the ribbon! So why aren't you going to wear the ribbon!?

KRAMER: This is America! I don't have to wear anything I don't want to wear!

CEDRIC: What are we gonna do with him?

BOB: I guess we are just going to have to teach him to wear the ribbon!

<Kramer tries to climb up a fire escape, but the mob grabs him and pulls him back down. Kramer screams.>
---------------------------------------
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SwRI: IBEX makes first-ever images of magnetotail

Post by bystander » Tue Dec 14, 2010 8:44 pm

IBEX spacecraft makes first-ever images of magnetotail structures
Southwest Research Institute | 14 Dec 2010
Invisible to the naked eye, yet massive in structure around the Earth is the magnetosphere, the region of space around the planet that ebbs and flows in response to the million-mile-per-hour flow of charged particles continually blasting from the Sun. NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft, designed to image the invisible interactions occurring at the edge of the solar system, captured images of magnetospheric structures and a dynamic event occurring in the magnetosphere as the spacecraft observed from near lunar distance.

The data provides the first image of the plasma sheet, a component of the magnetosphere made up of magnetic field lines that attach to the Earth at both ends, bottling up denser plasma (ionized gas), within the magnetotail, the trailing portion of the magnetosphere stretching backwards away from the Sun by the force of the solar wind. The image shows the plasma sheet and magnetotail in profile.

"The image alone is remarkable and would have made a great paper in and of itself because it's the first time we've imaged these important regions of the magnetosphere," says Dr. David McComas, principal investigator of the IBEX mission and assistant vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute.

However, a closer look at the various images produced by multiple IBEX orbits revealed what appeared to be a piece of the plasma sheet being bitten off and ejected down the tail. This magnetic disconnection phenomenon — a dynamic event where the magnetic fields "reconnect" across the plasma sheet, producing what is known as a plasmoid, is one explanation for what could be occurring in the series of images, which has never directly been seen before.

"Imagine the magnetosphere as one of those balloons that people make animals out of. If you take your hands and squeeze the balloon, the pressure forces the air into another segment of the balloon," says McComas. "Similarly, the solar wind at times increases the pressure around the magnetosphere, resulting in a portion of the plasma sheet being pinched away from the rest of the plasma sheet and forced down the magnetotail."

Because researchers believe this phenomenon generally occurs deeper in the magnetotail, the IBEX team is considering other explanations for the event, as well. Other possibilities include acceleration of ions from compression of the plasma sheet or an injection of new plasma caused by a reconnection event further back in the tail, with particles streaming back toward Earth.

"To actually be able to observe and image the plasma sheet and magnetotail for the first time, and especially to be able to see their dynamic variations, is extremely exciting," McComas continues.

While not specifically designed to observe the magnetosphere, IBEX's vantage point in space provides twice yearly (spring and fall) seasons for viewing from outside the magnetosphere. Previous images of the magnetosphere have been taken by other satellites from within. Future IBEX images of the magnetosphere are expected to provide additional data to compare with local measurements inside the magnetosphere and build on current theories.
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Energetic Neutral Atom - MAgnetospheric plasma SHEET

Post by neufer » Tue Dec 14, 2010 11:30 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_Boundary_Explorer wrote:
<<Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) images by measuring the location and magnitude of charge-exchange collisions. The satellite consists of two energetic neutral atom (ENA) imagers. IBEX is collecting Energetic neutral atom (ENA) emissions that are traveling through the solar system to Earth that cannot be measured by conventional telescopes. These ENAs are created at MAgnetic boundaries by the interactions between solar wind & non-solar wind particles.>>
Image
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UNH: IBEX Scientists Isolate Mysterious "Ribbon" of Energy

Post by bystander » Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:05 pm

IBEX Scientists Isolate Mysterious "Ribbon" of Energy and Particles that Wraps Around Solar System Boundary
University of New Hampshire | 2011 Mar 30
In a paper to be published in the April 10, 2011, issue of The Astrophysical Journal, scientists on NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission, including lead author Nathan Schwadron and others from the University of New Hampshire, isolate and resolve the mysterious “ribbon” of energy and particles the spacecraft discovered in the heliosphere – the huge bubble that surrounds our solar system and protects us from galactic cosmic rays.

The finding, which overturns 40 years of theory, provides insight into the fundamental structure of the heliosphere, which in turn helps scientists understand similar structures or “astrospheres” that surround other star systems throughout the cosmos.

The ribbon of energy was captured using ultra-high sensitive cameras that image energetic neutral atoms (instead of photons of light) to create maps of the boundary region between our solar system and the rest of our galaxy.

Notes Schwadron, an associate professor at UNH’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and department of physics, “Isolating and separating the ribbon from the IBEX maps was like pulling the drapes from our window to discover the landscape at the edge of the solar system.”

Of the singular images the IBEX mission has been able to achieve, lead scientist David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) says, “These maps are very rich scientifically and are critical in helping scientists understand how our space environment is controlled by the galactic medium. They provide the first images of our solar system’s boundaries, which control the access to potentially harmful galactic cosmic rays as well as all other matter from deep space.”

The most energetic galactic cosmic rays penetrate even the powerful magnetic fields closest to Earth and eventually collide and interact with Earth’s atmosphere. The direct or indirect effects of these cosmic rays on the Earth system, including our biosphere, remain poorly understood and are often highly controversial.

The IBEX team is using the maps to learn how the heliosphere is shaped and what its physical properties are. This detailed information about our solar system's boundaries will allow scientists to better understand how galactic cosmic rays evolve in our space environment, which in turn will provide fundamental information about the radiation environment on Earth and its implications on the evolution of life.

The IBEX scientists analyzed data from the mission’s first year of observations and, after developing an effective separation method, were able to isolate and resolve the unanticipated energetic ribbon feature. The ribbon appears to be wrapped like a belt on top of the globally distributed emissions of the broader sky, and by separating it from the background emissions scientists can now see what’s underneath the ribbon.

Says Schwadron, “There are many theories about how the ribbon is created, and we don’t understand exactly what we’re seeing but it seems to be telling us something about how the local galactic magnetic field interacts with the heliosphere.”

Additional evidence for that interaction was the discovery of a “tail” of emissions in the underlying boundary landscape, which is apparently deflected in the direction of the galactic magnetic field as the ribbon seems to indicate.

“This galactic magnetic field may be a missing key to understanding how the heliosphere protects the solar system from galactic cosmic rays,” says Schwadron.

Also seen in the maps is the expected feature of the “nose” of the heliosphere. The nose represents the direction in which the solar system moves through the local part of the galaxy nearest to our Sun and that Schwadron compares to the “bow wave in front of a ship, which shows us how our motion through the galaxy compresses and deflects the material of the local galactic medium around our heliosphere.”

The IBEX maps differ so radically from what was expected prior to the mission that the scientists have been struggling to untangle the vast amount of information the maps contain. The team notes that getting emissions from the nose of the heliosphere has been an important “lamp post” towards understanding how the global heliosphere is controlled by the interaction of the Sun with the local galactic medium.

Says McComas, “Prior to IBEX, most scientists believed that the global boundaries of our solar system were controlled mainly by the motion of our solar system through the galaxy and the solar wind, an extremely fast flow of electrically charged matter that flows out from the Sun. The IBEX maps reveal the galactic magnetic field is also a critical part of the Sun’s interaction with the galaxy.”

The mission launched October 19, 2008 and carries two ultra-high sensitivity cameras containing important components designed and built at UNH. In addition, the mission’s Science Operations Center is headquartered at UNH.
Separation of the Interstellar Boundary Explorer Ribbon from Globally Distributed Energetic Neutral Atom Flux - NA Schwadron et al
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Re: Energetic Neutral Atom - MAgnetospheric plasma SHEET

Post by Beyond » Thu Mar 31, 2011 10:58 pm

neufer wrote:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_Boundary_Explorer wrote:
<<Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) images by measuring the location and magnitude of charge-exchange collisions. The satellite consists of two energetic neutral atom (ENA) imagers. IBEX is collecting Energetic neutral atom (ENA) emissions that are traveling through the solar system to Earth that cannot be measured by conventional telescopes. These ENAs are created at MAgnetic boundaries by the interactions between solar wind & non-solar wind particles.>>
Image
Neufer, it was good of you to show us IBEX's Magnetospheric plasma sheet profile. However, you have also shown us some special equipment of IBEX that deals with the 'sheet'. Could you please demonstrate how the 'special' equipment works in dealing with the 'sheet'?
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Re: Energetic Neutral Atom - MAgnetospheric plasma SHEET

Post by neufer » Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:26 am

Beyond wrote:
Neufer, it was good of you to show us IBEX's Magnetospheric plasma sheet profile. However, you have also shown us some special equipment of IBEX that deals with the 'sheet'. Could you please demonstrate how the 'special' equipment works in dealing with the 'sheet'?
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Re: Cosmos: Mysterious band of particles

Post by Beyond » Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:16 am

AHH, so THAT's how they figured OUT the 'sheet'. I take it that the black nozzle on the end of the red tube is the 'POWER' nozzle and that It's plugged into the sheet to drive the inner workings to remove obstacles and clear the way to have an abundant plasma flow of information, that will clear out all doubt of what the 'sheet' is and we'll all feel better after we get there.
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IBEX Glimpses Interstellar Material beyond Solar System

Post by bystander » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:58 am

IBEX: Glimpses of the Interstellar Material Beyond our Solar System
NASA Heliophysics | GSFC | IBEX | 2012 Jan 31
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
A great magnetic bubble surrounds the solar system as it cruises through the galaxy. The sun pumps the inside of the bubble full of solar particles that stream out to the edge until they collide with the material that fills the rest of the galaxy, at a complex boundary called the heliosheath. On the other side of the boundary, electrically charged particles from the galactic wind blow by, but rebound off the heliosheath, never to enter the solar system. Neutral particles, on the other hand, are a different story. They saunter across the boundary as if it weren't there, continuing on another 7.5 billion miles for 30 years until they get caught by the sun's gravity, and sling shot around the star.

There, NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer lies in wait for them. Known as IBEX for short, this spacecraft methodically measures these samples of the mysterious neighborhood beyond our home. IBEX scans the entire sky once a year, and every February, its instruments point in the correct direction to intercept incoming neutral atoms. IBEX counted those atoms in 2009 and 2010 and has now captured the best and most complete glimpse of the material that lies so far outside our own system.

The results? It's an alien environment out there: the material in that galactic wind doesn't look like the same stuff our solar system is made of.

"We've directly measured four separate types of atoms from interstellar space and the composition just doesn't match up with what we see in the solar system," says Eric Christian, mission scientist for IBEX at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "IBEX's observations shed a whole new light on the mysterious zone where the solar system ends and interstellar space begins."

More than just helping to determine the distribution of elements in the galactic wind, these new measurements give clues about how and where our solar system formed, the forces that physically shape our solar system, and even the history of other stars in the Milky Way.

In a series of science papers appearing in the Astrophysics Journal on January 31, 2012, scientists report that for every 20 neon atoms in the galactic wind, there are 74 oxygen atoms. In our own solar system, however, for every 20 neon atoms there are 111 oxygen atoms. That translates to more oxygen in any given slice of the solar system than in the local interstellar space.

"Our solar system is different than the space right outside it and that suggests two possibilities," says David McComas the principal investigator for IBEX at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "Either the solar system evolved in a separate, more oxygen-rich part of the galaxy than where we currently reside or a great deal of critical, life-giving oxygen lies trapped in interstellar dust grains or ices, unable to move freely throughout space." Either way, this affects scientific models of how our solar system – and life – formed.

Studying the galactic wind also provides scientists with information about how our solar system interacts with the rest of space, which is congruent with an important IBEX goal. Classified as a NASA Explorer Mission -- a class of smaller, less expensive spacecraft with highly focused research objectives -- IBEX's main job is to study the heliosheath, that outer boundary of the solar system's magnetic bubble -- or heliosphere -- where particles from the solar wind meet the galactic wind.

Previous spacecraft have already provided some information about the way the galactic wind interacts with the heliosheath. Ulysses, for one, observed incoming helium as it traveled past Jupiter and measured it traveling at 59,000 miles per hour. IBEX's new information, however, shows the galactic wind traveling not only at a slower speed -- around 52,000 miles per hour -- but from a different direction, most likely offset by some four degrees from previous measurements. Such a difference may not initially seem significant, but it amounts to a full 20% difference in how much pressure the galactic wind exerts on the heliosphere.

"Measuring the pressure on our heliosphere from the material in the galaxy and from the magnetic fields out there," says Christian, "will help determine the size and shape of our solar system as it travels through the galaxy."

These IBEX measurements also provide information about the cloud of material in which the solar system currently resides. This cloud is called the local interstellar cloud, to differentiate it from the myriad of particle clouds throughout the Milky Way, each traveling at different speeds. The solar system and its heliosphere moved into our local cloud at some point during the last 45,000 years.

Since the older Ulysses observations of the galactic wind speed was in between the speeds expected for the local cloud and the adjacent cloud, researchers thought perhaps the solar system didn't lie smack in the middle of this cloud, but might be at the boundary, transitioning into a new region of space. IBEX's results, however, show that we remain fully in the local cloud, at least for the moment.

"Sometime in the next hundred to few thousand years, the blink of an eye on the timescales of the galaxy, our heliosphere should leave the local interstellar cloud and encounter a much different galactic environment," McComas says.

In addition to providing insight into the interaction between the solar system and its environment, these new results also hold clues about the history of material in the universe. While the big bang initially created hydrogen and helium, only the supernovae explosions at the end of a giant star's life can spread the heavier elements of oxygen and neon through the galaxy. Knowing the amounts of such elements in space can help map how the galaxy has evolved and changed over time.

"This set of papers provide many of the first direct measurements of the interstellar medium around us," says McComas. "We've been trying to understand our galaxy for a long time, and with all of these observations together, we are taking a major step forward in knowing what the local part of the galaxy is like."

Voyager 1 could cross out of our solar system within the next few years. By combining the data from several sets of NASA instruments – Ulysses, Voyager, IBEX and others – we are on the precipice of stepping outside and understanding the complex environment beyond our own frontier for the first time.

The Southwest Research Institute developed and leads the IBEX mission with a team of national and international partners. The spacecraft is one of NASA's series of low-cost, rapidly developed missions in the Small Explorers Program. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

IBEX - New Observations of Interstellar Matter - Briefing Materials
IBEX - New Observations of Interstellar Matter - Goddard Multimedia
NASA Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) Mission Page

SwRI: IBEX Measures 'Alien' Particles from Outside Solar System
Southwest Research Institute | 2012 Jan 31

LANL: IBEX Probe Glimpses Interstellar Neighborhood
Los Alamos National Laboratories | 2012 Jan 31

UNH: IBEX Team Presents Mission Findings
University of New Hampshire | 2012 Jan 31

NASA: Spacecraft Reveals New Observations of Interstellar Matter
NASA HQ GSFC | 2012 Jan 31

Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX): Direct Sampling of the Interstellar Medium
Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, Volume 198, Number 2, 2012 February

IBEX Captures ‘Alien’ Material From Beyond Our Solar System
Universe Today | Nancy Atkinson | 2012 Feb 01

IBEX: The Heliosphere in Motion
Centauri Dreams | Paul Gilster | 2012 Feb 01

We're Living in a Space Cloud
Discovery News | Irene Klotz | 2012 Feb 01
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SwRI: IBEX Shows Heliosphere's Bow Shock Does Not Exist

Post by bystander » Fri May 11, 2012 4:11 am

New IBEX data show heliosphere's long-theorized bow shock does not exist
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) | 2012 May 10
Image
The heliosphere is the region of space dominated by the Sun that cocoons Earth and
the other planets. Inflated by the million-mile-per-hour solar wind, the bubble-shaped
heliosphere pushes its way through the galaxy. For a quarter century, researchers
believed a bow “shock” formed ahead of the heliosphere as it moved through interstellar
space — similar to the sonic boom made by a jet breaking the sound barrier. New data
from IBEX shows that the heliosphere moves through space too slowly to form a bow shock.
(Courtesy: SwRI)

Image

Bow shocks exist around other astrospheres, as seen in these images taken by multiple
telescopes. New IBEX data show that our heliosphere moves through interstellar space too
slowly to produce a bow shock, creating more of a “wake” as it travels through space.
(Courtesy: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/Goddard/SwRI)

New results from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) reveal that the bow shock, widely accepted by researchers to precede the heliosphere as it plows through tenuous gas and dust from the galaxy does not exist.

According to a paper published in the journal Science online, the latest refinements in relative speed and local interstellar magnetic field strengh prevent the heliosphere, the magnetic "bubble" that cocoons Earth and the other planets, from developing a bow shock. The bow shock would consist of ionized gas or plasma that abruptly and discontinuously changes in density in the region of space that lies straight ahead of the heliosphere.

"The sonic boom made by a jet breaking the sound barrier is an earthly example of a bow shock," says Dr. David McComas, principal investigator of the IBEX mission and assistant vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). "As the jet reaches supersonic speeds, the air ahead of it can't get out of the way fast enough. Once the aircraft hits the speed of sound, the interaction changes instantaneously, resulting in a shock wave."

For about a quarter century, researchers believed that the heliosphere moved through the interstellar medium at a speed fast enough to form a bow shock. IBEX data have shown that the heliosphere actually moves through the local interstellar cloud at about 52,000 miles per hour, roughly 7,000 miles per hour slower than previously thought — slow enough to create more of a bow "wave" than a shock.

"While bow shocks certainly exist ahead of many other stars, we're finding that our Sun's interaction doesn't reach the critical threshold to form a shock, so a wave is a more accurate depiction of what's happening ahead of our heliosphere — much like the wave made by the bow of a boat as it glides through the water," says McComas.

Another influence is the magnetic pressure in the interstellar medium. IBEX data, as well as earlier Voyager observations, show that the magnetic field is stronger in the interstellar medium requiring even faster speeds to produce a bow shock. Combined, both factors now point to the conclusion that a bow shock is highly unlikely.

The IBEX team combined its data with analytical calculations and modeling and simulations to determine the conditions necessary for creating a bow shock. Two independent global models — one from a group in Huntsville, Ala., and another from Moscow — correlated with the analytical findings.

"It's too early to say exactly what this new data means for our heliosphere. Decades of research have explored scenarios that included a bow shock. That research now has to be redone using the latest data," says McComas. "Already, we know there are likely implications for how galactic cosmic rays propagate around and enter the solar system, which is relevant for human space travel."

IBEX's primary mission has been to image and map the invisible interactions occurring at the outer reaches of the solar system. Since its launch in October 2008, the spacecraft has also shed new light on the complex structure and dynamics occurring around Earth and discovered neutral atoms coming off the Moon.

The Heliosphere's Interstellar Interaction: No Bow Shock - D. J. McComas et al
Surprise! IBEX Finds No Bow ‘Shock’ Outside our Solar System
Universe Today | Nancy Atkinson | 2012 May 10

Sun Leaves No Shock Wave in its Wake
Discovery News | Irene Klotz | 2012 May 10

IBEX Reveals a Missing Boundary At the Edge Of the Solar System
NASA | GSFC | Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) | 2012 May 10
For the last few decades, space scientists have generally accepted that the bubble of gas and magnetic fields generated by the sun – known as the heliosphere – moves through space, creating three distinct boundary layers that culminate in an outermost bow shock. This shock is similar to the sonic boom created ahead of a supersonic jet. Earth itself certainly has one of these bow shocks on the sunward side of its magnetic environment, as do most other planets and many stars. A collection of new data from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), however, now indicate that the sun does not have a bow shock.

In a paper appearing online in Science Express on May 10, 2012, scientists compile data from IBEX, NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft, and computer models to show that the heliosphere just isn't moving fast enough to create a bow shock in the tenuous and highly magnetized region in our local part of the galaxy.

"IBEX gives a global view. It shows the whole of this region," says Eric Christian who is the mission scientist for IBEX at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and who was formerly the program scientist for Voyager. "At the same time the Voyager spacecraft are actually there, in situ, measuring its environment at two locations. The combination of IBEX and Voyager gives you great science and now the new IBEX results strongly indicate that there is no bow shock."

Since the 1980s, the boundaries of the heliosphere have largely been assumed to be a series of three. The first is a fairly spherical boundary called the termination shock -- the point where the solar wind streaming from the sun slows down below supersonic speeds. From there the wind continues more slowly until it collides with the material in the rest of the galaxy and is pushed back, deflecting around the outskirts of the heliosphere, streaming back toward the tail of the moving bubble. This second boundary is called the heliopause. The third boundary was thought to be the bow shock, formed as the heliosphere plowed its way through the local galactic cloud the same way a supersonic jet pushes aside the air as it moves.

The two Voyager spacecraft have confirmed the existence of the first boundary, and have seen evidence for the second as they move toward it. However, each Voyager spacecraft has seen different things on their respective trips – one moving in a more northerly direction, one moving more to the south. They've encountered different regions at different distances from the sun, suggesting the very shape of the heliosphere is squashed and asymmetrical. Scientists believe this asymmetry is caused by the force and direction of magnetic fields ramming into the heliosphere from outside, the same way a hand pushing on a balloon will force it out of shape. This was the first clue that there's a strong magnetic field exerting pressure on the outskirts of the solar system. Independently, IBEX has seen a well-defined band, or ribbon, at the edge of the heliosphere, believed to be defined by this external magnetic field. Other studies from IBEX have helped quantify the magnitude of the magnetic field, showing that it is on the strong end of what was previously thought possible.

"We've seen one after another signature of a very strong magnetic field in the galactic environment," says Nathan Schwadron, a space scientist at the University of New Hampshire in Durham who is one of the authors on the paper. "That magnetic field influences the structure of the heliosphere and the boundaries themselves. That leads to a whole new paradigm."

Along with increased evidence for a strong external magnetic field, IBEX has also provided a new measurement for the speed of the heliosphere itself with respect to the local cloud.

"We recently analyzed two years worth of IBEX data, and they showed that the speed of the heliosphere – with respect to the local cloud of material – is only 52,000 miles per hour, instead of the previously believed 59,000," says David McComas at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, who is first author on this paper and also the principal investigator for IBEX. "That might not seem like a huge difference, but it translates to a quarter less pressure exerted on the boundaries of the heliosphere. This means there's a very different interaction, a much weaker interaction, than previously thought."

In essence, it means that, like an airplane going too slowly to produce a sonic boom, the heliosphere isn't moving fast enough to create a bow shock, given the density and pressures of the material its moving through.

The heliosphere's boundaries lie roughly 10 billion miles away from Earth, but are nonetheless crucial for understanding our place in the universe. Indeed, the heliopause provides some protection for our solar system from the harsh, radiation environment surrounding it. By knowing the nature of these boundaries, scientists can start to better understand the propagation of particles that do have enough energy and speed to make it into our environment.

As scientists incorporate this substantive new understanding into their physical models, they will also be waiting for more evidence from both IBEX and the Voyagers, which they hope will continue to send back observations for many years to come.

"Imagine the point at which Voyager crosses the threshold of the heliopause and either does or does not see what IBEX is predicting," says Schwadron. "There will be enormous opportunities for scientific advancement."
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UNH: IBEX's Enigmatic 'Ribbon' of Energy Explained

Post by bystander » Thu Feb 07, 2013 5:03 am

Enigmatic "Ribbon" Of Energy Discovered by NASA Satellite Explained
University of New Hampshire | EOS | 2013 Feb 05
Image
A three-dimensional diagram of the retention region shown as
a "life preserver" around our heliosphere bubble along with the
original IBEX ribbon image. The interstellar magnetic field lines
are shown running from upper left to lower right around the
heliosphere, and the area where the field lines "squeeze" the
heliosphere corresponds to the ribbon location. The red arrow
at the front shows the direction of travel of our solar system.
(Credit: Adler Planetarium/IBEX Team)

After three years of puzzling over a striking "ribbon" of energy and particles discovered by NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) at the edge of our solar system, scientists may be on the verge of cracking the mystery.

In a paper published Feb. 4, 2013, in the Astrophysical Journal, researchers, including lead author Nathan Schwadron of the University of New Hampshire, propose a "retention theory" that for the first time explains all the key observations of this astrophysical enigma.

"If the theory is correct," Schwadron notes, "the ribbon can be used to tell us how we're moving through the magnetic fields of the interstellar medium and how those magnetic fields then influence our space environment."

In particular, these strong magnetic fields appear to play a critical role in shaping our heliosphere - the huge bubble that surrounds our solar system and shields us from much of harmful galactic cosmic radiation that fills the galaxy. This may have important ramifications for the history and future of radiation in space, and its impact here on Earth, as the heliosphere changes in response to changing conditions in the interstellar medium or the "space between the stars."

According to the retention theory, the ribbon exists in a special location where neutral hydrogen atoms from the solar wind move across the local galactic magnetic field. Neutral atoms are not affected by magnetic fields, but when their electrons get stripped away they become charged ions and begin to gyrate rapidly around magnetic field lines. That rapid rotation creates waves or vibrations in the magnetic field, and the charged ions then become trapped by the waves. This is the process that creates the ribbon.

Says Schwadron, an associate professor at UNH's Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space and department of physics, "Think of the ribbon as a harbor and the solar wind particles it contains as boats. The boats can be trapped in the harbor if the ocean waves outside it are powerful enough. This is the nature of the new ribbon model. The ribbon is a region where particles, originally from the solar wind, become trapped or 'retained' due to intense waves and vibrations in the magnetic field."

The Astrophysical Journal paper is titled "Spatial Retention of Ions Producing the IBEX Ribbon" and is coauthored by Dave McComas of the Southwest Research Institute and principal investigator for the IBEX mission.

Says McComas, "This is a perfect example of the scientific process: we observe something completely new and unexpected with IBEX, develop various hypotheses to explain the observations, and then develop mathematical models to try to validate the hypotheses."

Indeed, since the discovery of the ribbon, more than a dozen competing theories seeking to explain the phenomenon have been put forth. The retention theory "checks all the boxes, agrees with all the available observations, and the mathematical modeling results look remarkably like what the ribbon actually looks like," notes Schwadron. "This substantially raises the bar for models that attempt to explain the ribbon."

IBEX was launched in October 2008 and has provided images of the invisible interactions between the solar wind and the local galactic medium. The ribbon was captured using ultra-high sensitive cameras - one of which has components designed and built at the UNH Space Science Center - that image energetic neutral atoms (instead of photons of light) to create maps of the boundary region between our solar system and the rest of our galaxy.

Although the retention theory may check all the boxes, the IBEX team is still far from claiming that the ribbon is fully explained. A major test for the retention theory will be watching how the ribbon changes in step with observed changes in the solar wind. Notes Schwadron, "If what we observe matches what the model predicts should happen to the ribbon as the solar wind changes, that will go a long way toward validating the model."

New "retention model" explains enigmatic ribbon at edge of solar system
Southwest Research Institute | 2013 Feb 05

A Major Step Forward in Explaining the Ribbon in Space Discovered by NASA’s IBEX Mission
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | IBEX | 2013 Feb 05

How to Tie a Ribbon Round the Solar System
Science Shot | Richard A. Kerr | 2013 Feb 05

Spatial Retention of Ions Producing the IBEX Ribbon - N. A. Schwadron and D. J. McComas
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IBEX Provides First View Of the Solar System’s Tail

Post by bystander » Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:36 pm

IBEX Provides First View Of the Solar System’s Tail
NASA | SwRI | IBEX | 2013 Jul 10
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Image
Other stars show tails that trail behind them like a comet’s tail. Scientists used
NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) to confirm that our solar system has
one too. From top left and going counter clockwise, the stars shown are: LL Orionis;
BZ Cam; and Mira. Image Credit: NASA/HST/R.Casalegno/GALEX
Click to play embedded YouTube video.

It has long been assumed that our solar system, like a comet, has a tail. Just as any object moving through another medium – for example, a meteor traveling through Earth’s atmosphere – causes the particles to form a stream trailing off behind it. But the tail of our solar bubble, called the heliosphere, has never actually been observed, until now.

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, has mapped the boundaries of the tail of the heliosphere, something that has never before been possible. Scientists describe this tail, called the heliotail, in detail in a paper published on July 10, 2013, in The Astrophysical Journal. By combining observations from the first three years of IBEX imagery, the team mapped out a tail that shows a combination of fast and slow moving particles. There are two lobes of slower particles on the sides, faster particles above and below, with the entire structure twisted, as it experiences the pushing and pulling of magnetic fields outside the solar system.

“By examining the neutral atoms, IBEX made the first observations of the heliotail,” said David McComas, lead author on the paper and principal investigator for IBEX at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “Many models have suggested the heliotail might be like this or like that, but we’ve had no observations. We always drew pictures where the tail of the heliosphere just disappears off the page, since we couldn’t even speculate about what it really looked like.”

While telescopes have spotted such tails around other stars, it has been difficult to see whether our star also had one. Pioneer 10 was headed in that direction after it crossed the orbit of Neptune in 1983. However, it lost power in 2003 before it moved into the tail so we have no data from spacecraft directly in the tail. Watching it from afar is hard, because the particles in the tail, and throughout the heliosphere, don’t shine, so they can’t be seen conventionally.

IBEX, on the other hand, can map such regions by measuring neutral particles created by collisions at the heliosphere’s boundaries. This technique, called energetic neutral atom imaging, relies on the fact that the paths of neutral particles aren’t affected by the heliosphere’s magnetic fields. The particles travel in a straight line from collision to IBEX. Consequently, observing where the neutral particles came from describes what’s going on in these distant regions.

“Using neutral atoms, IBEX can observe far away structures, even from Earth orbit,” said Eric Christian, IBEX mission scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “And IBEX scans the entire sky, so it has given us our first data about what the tail of the heliosphere looks like, an important part of understanding our place in and movement through the galaxy.”

The journey for these neutral atoms begins years before it hits the IBEX instruments. The solar wind blowing out from the sun streams out in all directions, moving far past the furthest planets, eventually slowing down and bending back along the tail, in response to the pressure from the inflowing interstellar material. The particles join a mass migration of particles moving backward inside the boundary of the heliosphere – a thin layer called the heliopause.

While this is happening, a steady stream of slower, neutral atoms originating from elsewhere in the galaxy, travel across the solar system. When one of these neutral atoms collides with one of the faster charged particles, they can exchange an electron. The result can be a slow charged particle and a fast neutral atom. The neutral is no longer bound to the magnetic fields, and instead speeds straight off in whatever direction it was pointed at that moment. Some of these travel for years until they are detected by IBEX.

“By collecting these energetic neutral atoms, IBEX provides maps of the original charged particles,” said McComas. “The structures in the heliotail are invisible to our eyes, but we can use this trick to remotely image the outermost regions of our heliosphere.”

Early results from IBEX on the heliotail originally suggested there might just be a small region of slow-moving wind down the heliotail, but once scientists had collected enough data they realized they had initially seen only part of the picture. Based on the map of the heliotail they have now provided, someone looking straight down the tail sees a shape a little like a four-leaf clover. The two side leaves are filled with slow moving particles, and the upper and lower leaves with fast ones. This shape makes sense, given the fact that the sun has been sending out mostly fast solar wind near its poles, and slower wind near its equator for the last few years – a common pattern in the most recent phase of the sun’s 11-year activity cycle.

The four-leaf clover does not align perfectly with the sun, however. The entire shape is rotated slightly, indicating that as it moves further away from the sun and its magnetic influence, the charged particles have begun to be nudged into a new orientation, aligning with the magnetic fields from the local galaxy. Scientists still do not know how long the tail is.

“The tail is our footprint on the galaxy, and it’s exciting that we’re starting to understand the structure of it,” said Christian. “The next step is to incorporate these observations into our models and start the process of really understanding our heliopshere.”

Scientists can test their computer simulations of the heliosphere against the new observations and improve their models as needed. Together, data from instruments in space and analysis at labs on the ground will continue to improve our understanding of the comet-like tail streaming out behind us.

IBEX spacecraft images the heliotail
Southwest Research Institute | 2013 Jul 10

NASA Spacecraft Maps the Solar System's Tail
NASA Science News | Dr. Tony Phillips | 2013 Jul 10

ScienceShot: The Sun's Twisted Tail
Science NOW | Richard A. Kerr | 2013 Jul 10

Our Solar System Has a Tail Shaped Like a Four-Leaf Clover
Universe Today | Nancy Atkinson | 2013 Jul 10

Comet Tail Blazes from Solar System's Derriere
Discovery News | Irene Klotz | 2013 Jul 10

The Heliotail Revealed by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer - D. J. McComas et al
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Interstellar Wind Changed Direction Over 40 Years

Post by bystander » Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:55 am

Eleven Spacecraft Show Interstellar Wind Changed Direction Over 40 Years
NASA | Goddard Space Flight Center | 2013 Sep 05
Like the wind adjusting course in the middle of a storm, scientists have discovered that the particles streaming into the solar system from interstellar space have most likely changed direction over the last 40 years. Such information can help us map out our place within the galaxy surrounding us, and help us understand our place in space.

The results, based on data spanning four decades from 11 different spacecraft, were published in Science on Sept. 5, 2013.

Vestiges of the interstellar wind flowing into what's called the heliosphere -- the vast bubble filled by the sun's own constant flow of particles, the solar wind – is one of the ways scientists can observe what lies just outside of our own home, in the galactic cloud through which the solar system travels. The heliosphere is situated near the inside edge of an interstellar cloud and the two move past each other at a velocity of 50,000 miles per hour. This motion creates a wind of neutral interstellar atoms blowing past Earth, of which helium is the easiest to measure.

"Because the sun is moving though this cloud, interstellar atoms penetrate into the solar system," said Priscilla Frisch, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago, Ill. and the lead author on the paper. "The charged particles in the interstellar wind don't do a good job of reaching the inner solar system, but many of the atoms in the wind are neutral. These can penetrate close to Earth and can be measured."

Frisch became interested in this subject when results in January 2012 from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, showed that the interstellar wind was entering the heliosphere from a slightly different direction than had been observed by NASA's Ulysses mission in the 1990s. Frisch and her colleagues set out to gather as much evidence from as many sources as they could to determine whether the newer instruments simply provided more accurate results, or whether the wind direction itself changed over the years.

The earliest historical data on the interstellar wind comes from the 1970s from the U.S. Department of Defense's Space Test Program 72-1 and SOLRAD 11B, NASA's Mariner, and the Soviet Prognoz 6. While instruments have improved since the 1970s, comparing information from several sets of observations helped the researchers gain confidence in results from that early data. The team went on to look at another seven data sets including the Ulysses information from 1990 to 2001, and more recent data from IBEX, as well as four other NASA missions: the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, the Advanced Composition Explorer, or ACE, the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer, and the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging mission, or MESSENGER, currently in orbit around Mercury. The eleventh set of observations came from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's Nuzomi.

"The direction of the wind obtained from the most recent data does not agree with the direction obtained from the earlier measurements, suggesting that the wind itself has changed over time," said Eric Christian, the IBEX mission scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "It's an intriguing result, which relied on looking at a suite of data measured in a bunch of different ways."

The various sets of observations relied on three different methods to measure the incoming interstellar wind. IBEX and Ulysses directly measure neutral helium atoms as they coursed through the inner solar system. IBEX's measurements are made close to Earth, while Ulysses' measurements reach out to the orbit of Jupiter.

The earliest measurements in the 1970s observed fluorescence that occurs when the extreme ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun scatters off the interstellar helium wind passing by the sun. Neutral helium atoms get caught by the sun's gravity, forming a focusing cone. As radiation from the sun bounces off these atoms, they give off light. Measuring the light provides information about the helium inflow direction.

The third technique to measure the helium wind relies on the fact that after this interaction with the sun's radiation, a fraction of neutral helium atoms gain an electron, and thus become charged. Many instruments in space are geared to study charged particles, such as instruments on NASA’s STEREO and ACE. Such instruments can measure the longitudinal direction of the particle wind, providing one last set of historical observations to round out the picture.

The data from these diverse sources shows that the direction of the interstellar wind has changed some 4 to 9 degrees over the last 40 years.

"Previously we thought the local interstellar medium was very constant, but these results show that it is highly dynamic, as is the heliosphere’s interaction with it," said David McComas, IBEX principal investigator at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

While the reason for – and, indeed, the exact timing of – the shift is still unclear, Frisch pointed out that scientists know our solar system is close to the edge of the local interstellar cloud. Such an area of the galaxy might experience turbulence, and as we hurtle through space, the heliosphere could be exposed to different directions of wind. While the scientists don't yet know for sure how the direction switch happened, the team believes that additional observations should ultimately explain its cause, giving us even more information about the galaxy that surrounds us.

Interstellar Winds Buffeting Our Solar System Have Shifted Direction
University of New Hampshire | 2013 Sep 05

IBEX measures changes in the direction of interstellar winds buffeting our solar system
Southwest Research Institute | 2013 Sep 05

Spacecraft measures changes in direction of solar system’s interstellar winds
University of Chicago | 2013 Sep 06

A Change Is in the (Interstellar) Wind
Science NOW | Ron Cowen | 2013 Sep 05

Decades-Long Changes of the Interstellar Wind Through Our Solar System - P. C. Frisch et al
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thar's a storm a-brewing!

Post by neufer » Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:45 am

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Click to play embedded YouTube video.
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Re: Cosmos: Mysterious band of particles

Post by Ron-Astro Pharmacist » Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:20 pm

“Ether” you’re right or you are wrong. My question is, “Are starting to fill in some voids in our knowledge about “empty” space that Michelson–Morley and many others questioned a century ago?”

Or are the two even related?
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Re: Cosmos: Mysterious band of particles

Post by neufer » Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:19 pm

Ron-Astro Pharmacist wrote:
“Ether” you’re right or you are wrong. My question is, “Are starting to fill in some voids in our knowledge about “empty” space that Michelson–Morley and many others questioned a century ago?”

Or are the two even related?
Aether (Brightness), Erebus (Darkness) and Chaos (the rarefied Wind) are all related but we just aren't sure how:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aether_%28mythology%29 wrote:
<<In Greek mythology, Aether or Aither (Æthere, Greek: Αἰθήρ) is one of the primordial deities, the first-born elementals. Aether is the personification of the upper air. He embodies the pure upper air that the gods breathe, as opposed to the normal air (Ἀήρ, aer) breathed by mortals.

In Hesiod's Theogony, Aether (Brightness), was the son of Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night), and the brother of Hemera (Day). According to the poet Alcman, Aether was the father of Uranus, the personification of the sky. While Aether was the personification of the upper air, Uranus was literally the sky itself, composed of a solid dome of brass.

The Roman mythographer Hyginus, says Aether was the son of Chaos and Caligo (Darkness):
  • Hyginus ... started his Fabulae with a strange hodgepodge of Greek and Roman cosmogonies and early genealogies. It begins as follows: Ex Caligine Chaos. Ex Chao et Caligine Nox Dies Erebus Aether (Praefatio 1). His genealogy looks like a derivation from Hesiod, but it starts with the un-Hesiodic and un-Roman Caligo, ‘Darkness’. Darkness probably did occur in a cosmogonic poem of Alcman, but it seems only fair to say that it was not prominent in Greek cosmogonies.
Hyginus says further that the children of Aether and Day were Earth, Heaven, and Sea, while the children of Aether and Earth were "Grief, Deceit, Wrath, Lamentation, Falsehood, Oath, Vengeance, Intemperance, Altercation, Forgetfulness, Sloth, Fear, Pride, Incest, Combat, Ocean, Themis, Tartarus, Pontus; and the Titans, Briareus, Gyges, Steropes, Atlas, Hyperion, and Polus, Saturn, Ops, Moneta, Dione; and three Furies – namely, Alecto, Megaera, Tisiphone."[/color][/i]

Aristophanes states that Aether was the son of Erebus. However, Damascius says that Aether, Erebus and Chaos were siblings, and the offspring of Chronos (Father Time). According to Epiphanius, the world began as a cosmic egg, encircled by Time and Inevitability (most likely Chronos and Ananke) in serpent fashion. Together they constricted the egg, squeezing its matter with great force, until the world divided into two hemispheres. After that, the atoms sorted themselves out. The lighter and finer ones floated above and became the Bright Air (Aether and/or Uranus) and the rarefied Wind (Chaos), while the heavier and dirtier atoms sank and became the Earth (Gaia) and the Ocean (Pontos and/or Oceanus).>>
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Re: Cosmos: Mysterious band of particles

Post by Ron-Astro Pharmacist » Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:52 pm

That’s what I thought but I have an over-active imagination and access to thousands of years of investigation. How in the world did the ancient Greeks and Romans conceive it?

You think the people of their era had better insight...
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UNH/IBEX: Cosmic Roadmap in Galactic Magnetic Field?

Post by MargaritaMc » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:11 pm

University of New Hampshire:Scientists Reveal Cosmic Roadmap to Galactic Magnetic Field Cosmic ray intensities (left) compared with predictions (right) from IBEX. The similarity between these observations and predictions—as evidenced by the similar color regions—supports the local galactic magnetic field direction determined from IBEX observations made from particles at vastly lower energies than the cosmic ray observations shown here. The blue area represents regions of lower fluxes of cosmic rays. The gray and white lines separate regions of different energies—lower energies above the lines, high energies below. Image courtesy of Nathan Schwadron, UNH-EOS.

DURHAM, NH –-Scientists on NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission, including a team leader from the University of New Hampshire, report that recent, independent measurements have validated one of the mission’s signature findings—a mysterious "ribbon" of energy and particles at the edge of our solar system that appears to be a directional “roadmap in the sky” of the local interstellar magnetic field.

Unknown until now, the direction of the galactic magnetic field may be a missing key to understanding how the heliosphere—the gigantic bubble that surrounds our solar system—is shaped by the interstellar magnetic field and how it thereby helps shield us from dangerous incoming galactic cosmic rays.
read more at
http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2014/0 ... oadmap.cfm
Science Express: Global Anisotropies in TeV Cosmic Rays Related to the Sun’s Local Galactic Environment from IBEX

NASA's IBEX Helps Paint Picture of the Magnetic System Beyond the Solar Wind
"In those rare moments of total quiet with a dark sky, I again feel the awe that struck me as a child. The feeling is utterly overwhelming as my mind races out across the stars. I feel peaceful and serene."
&mdash; Dr Debra M. Elmegreen, Fellow of the AAAS

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IBEX Sheds New Light on Solar System Boundary

Post by bystander » Wed Oct 21, 2015 5:40 pm

Satellite with UNH Components Sheds New Light on Solar System Boundary
University of New Hampshire | 2015 Oct 20
[img3="This image shows a sky map of neutral oxygen atoms (represented by the colored pixels) coming towards (foreground) the IBEX spacecraft from the boundary of our solar system. The most intense feature, like a spotlight in the sky, is in red and shows interstellar oxygen wind coming towards IBEX, with the second wind component highlighted by the dashed yellow ellipse. The white dot indicates the direction in which Voyager 1 is heading away from the foreground. Voyager 1 currently traverses the layer of the heliosphere from which the second wind component originates. Image adapted from a figure in the ApJS paper authored by UNH graduate Jeewoo Park. "]http://www.eos.unh.edu/newsimage/O-Map- ... ion_lg.jpg[/img3][hr][/hr]
A team of scientists, including seven from the University of New Hampshire, present findings from six years of direct observations made by NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission of the interstellar wind that blows through our solar system in 14 papers published today in an Astrophysical Journal Supplement (ApJS) Special Issue.

Launched Oct. 19, 2008, IBEX has now consolidated and refined the physical conditions of the material that surrounds our solar system - the interstellar medium - and has opened a new and unique view into the interface just outside our solar system's boundary.

Among other things, this is important because this is the region where the giant bubble emanating from the sun - the heliosphere - begins to protect our solar system from the hazards of interstellar space, particularly high-energy cosmic radiation. ...

Using energetic neutral atoms (instead of photons of light) to create maps of the boundary between our solar system and the rest of our galaxy, the yard-wide, half-a-yard-tall octagonal IBEX satellite is able to make high-fidelity measurements that determine the direction, speed and temperature of the interstellar wind and probe the pristine environment around our solar system as never before.

IBEX discovered that the interstellar wind has a higher temperature than reported previously from observations with the Ulysses spacecraft. Together with the wind speed and density and the interstellar magnetic field, the temperature determines the pressure that the interstellar material exerts on the heliosphere. The size of the heliosphere, which is controlled by that pressure, and the interaction with the solar wind determine the effectiveness of this shield.

IBEX sets “gold standard” for understanding the galactic material surrounding our solar system
Southwest Research Institute | 2015 Oct 20

Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series Special Issue on IBEX
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IBEX Charts 11 Years of Change at Boundary to Interstellar Space

Post by bystander » Fri Jun 19, 2020 1:45 pm

IBEX Charts 11 Years of Change at Boundary to Interstellar Space
NASA | GSFC | IBEX | 2020 Jun 11
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
For the first time, scientists have used an entire solar cycle of data from NASA’s
IBEX spacecraft to study how the heliosphere—the vast magnetic bubble of space
that we live in—changes over time. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Joy Ng

Far, far beyond the orbits of the planets lie the hazy contours of the magnetic bubble in space that we call home.

This is the heliosphere, the vast bubble that is generated by the Sun’s magnetic field and envelops all the planets. The borders of this cosmic bubble are not fixed. In response to the Sun’s gasps and sighs, they shrink and stretch over the years.

Now, for the first time, scientists have used an entire solar cycle of data from NASA’s IBEX spacecraft to study how the heliosphere changes over time. Solar cycles last roughly 11 years, as the Sun swings from seasons of high to low activity, and back to high again. With IBEX’s long record, scientists were eager to examine how the Sun’s mood swings play out at the edge of the heliosphere. The results show the shifting outer heliosphere in great detail, deftly sketch the heliosphere’s shape (a matter of debate in recent years), and hint at processes behind one of its most puzzling features. ...

IBEX, short for the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, has been observing the boundary to interstellar space for more than 11 years, showing us where our cosmic neighborhood fits in with the rest of the galaxy. ...

Solar Cycle of Imaging the Global Heliosphere: Interstellar
Boundary Explorer (IBEX) Observations from 2009–2019
~ D. J. McComas et al
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
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