Publication: Solar Cycle of Imaging the Global Heliosphere: Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) Observations from 2009-2019

Monday, Jun 15, 2020

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission has operated in space for a full solar activity cycle (Solar Cycle 24), and IBEX observations have exposed the global three-dimensional structure of the heliosphere and its interaction with the very local interstellar medium for the first time. Here, we extend the prior IBEX observations of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) by adding a comprehensive analysis of four additional years (2016 through 2019). We document several improvements and rerelease the entire 11 yr, IBEX-Hi data set. The new observations track the continuing expansion of the outer heliosphere’s response to the large solar wind pressure increase in late 2014. We find that the intensification of ENAs from the heliosheath continued to expand progressively over time to directions farther from the initial, closest direction to the heliospheric boundaries, ~20° south of the upwind direction. This expansion extended beyond the south pole in 2018 and the north pole in 2019, demonstrating that the termination shock and heliopause are closer in the south. The heliotail has not yet responded, indicating that the boundaries are significantly farther away in the downwind direction. Finally, the slow solar wind (~1 keV) ENAs just started to intensify from the closest regions of the IBEX Ribbon. This is about two and a half years after the initial response from heliosheath ENAs and about four and a half years after the increase in solar wind output, both clearly implicating a "secondary ENA" source in the draped interstellar magnetic field, just beyond the heliopause.

Read the article here.

NASA press release.

Princeton University press release.