Diagnosing the neutral interstellar gas flow at 1 AU with IBEX-Lo

E. Möbius, H. Kucharek, G. Clark, M. O'Neill, L. Petersen, M. Bzowski, L. Saul, P. Wurz, S. A. Fuselier, V. V. Izmodenov, D. J. McComas, H. R. Müller, D. B. Alexashov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Every year in fall and spring the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) will observe directly the interstellar gas flow at 1 AU over periods of several months. The IBEX-Lo sensor employs a powerful triple time-of-flight mass spectrometer. It can distinguish and image the O and He flow distributions in the northern fall and spring, making use of sensor viewing perpendicular to the Sun-pointing spin axis. To effectively image the narrow flow distributions IBEX-Lo has a high angular resolution quadrant in its collimator. This quadrant is employed selectively for the interstellar gas flow viewing in the spring by electrostatically shutting off the remainder of the aperture. The operational scenarios, the expected data, and the necessary modeling to extract the interstellar parameters and the conditions in the heliospheric boundary are described. The combination of two key interstellar species will facilitate a direct comparison of the pristine interstellar flow, represented by He, which has not been altered in the heliospheric boundary region, with a flow that is processed in the outer heliosheath, represented by O. The O flow distribution consists of a depleted pristine component and decelerated and heated neutrals. Extracting the latter so-called secondary component of interstellar neutrals will provide quantitative constraints for several important parameters of the heliosheath interaction in current global heliospheric models. Finding the fraction and width of the secondary component yields an independent value for the global filtration factor of species, such as O and H. Thus far filtration can only be inferred, barring observations in the local interstellar cloud proper. The direction of the secondary component will provide independent information on the interstellar magnetic field strength and orientation, which has been inferred from SOHO SWAN Ly-α backscattering observations and the two Voyager crossings of the termination shock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-172
Number of pages24
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Heliosphere
  • Instrumentation
  • Interstellar gas


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