Five years of stereo magnetospheric imaging by TWINS

J. Goldstein, D. J. McComas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Two Wide-angle Imaging Neutral-atom Spectrometers (TWINS) is the first stereoscopic magnetospheric imager. TWINS is a NASA Explorer Mission of Opportunity performing simultaneous energetic neutral atom (ENA) imaging from two widely-separated Molniya orbits on two different spacecraft, and providing nearly continuous coverage of magnetospheric ENA emissions. The ENA imagers observe energetic neutrals produced from global ion populations, over a broad energy range (1-100 keV/u) with high angular (4 â̂̃×4â̂̃) and time (about 1-minute) resolution. TWINS distinguishes hydrogen ENAs from oxygen ENAs. Each TWINS spacecraft also carries a Lyman-α geocoronal imager to monitor the cold exospheric hydrogen atoms that produce ENAs from ions via charge exchange. Complementing the imagers are detectors that measure the local charged particle environment around the spacecraft. During its first five years of science operations, TWINS has discovered new global properties of geospace plasmas and neutrals, fostered understanding of causal relationships, confirmed theories and predictions based on in situ data, and yielded key insights needed to improve geospace models. Analysis and modeling of TWINS data have: (1) obtained continuous (main phase through recovery) global ion spectra, (2) revealed a previously unknown local-time dependence of global pitch angle, (3) developed quantitative determination of ion fluxes from low altitude ENAs (4) determined dynamic connections between local pitch angle and global ion precipitation, (5) confirmed local-time dependence of precipitating ion temperature, (6) imaged global dynamic heating of the magnetosphere, (7) explained why the oxygen ring current survives longer into recovery than hydrogen, and (8) revealed new global exospheric density features and their influence upon ring current decay rates. Over the next several years of the solar cycle, TWINS observations of three-dimensional (3D) global ion dynamics, composition, origins and destinies are crucial to capture the system-level view of geospace over the full range of geomagnetic and solar activity conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-70
Number of pages32
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Energetic neutral atom imaging
  • Geomagnetic storms
  • Global simulation
  • Inner magnetosphere
  • Ion composition
  • Ion dynamics
  • Ion pitch angle
  • Ion temperature
  • Multi-mission observations
  • Neutral hydrogen exosphere
  • Stereo imaging
  • Terrestrial ring current


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