Publication: Science Opportunities from Observations of the Interstellar Neutral Gas with Adjustable Boresight Direction

Monday, Dec 16, 2019

The interstellar neutral (ISN) gas enters the heliosphere and is detected at a few au from the Sun, as demonstrated by Ulysses and the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX). Ulysses observed ISN gas from different vantage points in a polar orbit from 1994 to 2007, while IBEX has been observing in an Earth orbit in a fixed direction relative to the Sun from 2009. McComas et al. (2018) reported about an IMAP-Lo detector on board the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), with an ability to track the ISN flux in the sky. We present observation geometries for ISN gas for a detector with the capability to adjust the boresight direction along the Earth orbit over a year within a multichoice ISN observation scheme. We study science opportunities from the observations as a function of time during a year and the phase of solar activity. We identify observation geometries and determine the observation seasons separately for various ISN species and populations. We find that using an adjustable viewing direction allows for ISN gas observations in the upwind hemisphere, where the signal is not distorted by gravitational focusing, in addition to the viewing of ISN species throughout the entire year. Moreover, we demonstrate that with appropriately adjusted observation geometries, primary and secondary populations can be fully separated. Additionally, we show that atoms of ISN gas on indirect trajectories are accessible for detection, and we present their impact on the study of the ionization rates for ISN species.

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