Comparisons of the interstellar magnetic field directions obtained from the IBEX Ribbon and interstellar polarizations

Priscilla C. Frisch, B. G. Andersson, Andrei Berdyugin, Herbert O. Funsten, Antonio M. Magalhaes, David J. McComas, Vilppu Piirola, Nathan A. Schwadron, Jonathan D. Slavin, Sloane J. Wiktorowicz

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34 Scopus citations


Variations in the spatial configuration of the interstellar magnetic field (ISMF) near the Sun can be constrained by comparing the ISMF direction at the heliosphere found from the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft observations of a "Ribbon" of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs), with the ISMF direction derived from optical polarization data for stars within ∼40 pc. Using interstellar polarization observations toward ∼30 nearby stars within ∼ 90° of the heliosphere nose, we find that the best fits to the polarization position angles are obtained for a magnetic pole directed toward ecliptic coordinates of λ, β ∼ 263°, 37° (or galactic coordinates of ℓ, b ∼ 38°, 23°), with uncertainties of ±35° based on the broad minimum of the best fits and the range of data quality. This magnetic pole is 33° from the magnetic pole that is defined by the center of the arc of the ENA Ribbon. The IBEXENA ribbon is seen in sight lines that are perpendicular to the ISMF as it drapes over the heliosphere. The similarity of the polarization and Ribbon directions for the local ISMF suggests that the local field is coherent over scale sizes of tens of parsecs. The ISMF vector direction is nearly perpendicular to the flow of local interstellar material (ISM) through the local standard of rest, supporting a possible local ISM origin related to an evolved expanding magnetized shell. The local ISMF direction is found to have a curious geometry with respect to the cosmic microwave background dipole moment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1473-1479
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Dust, extinction
  • ISM: bubbles
  • ISM: general
  • ISM: magnetic fields
  • Sun: heliosphere


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