IBEX-interstellar boundary explorer

D. J. McComas, F. Allegrini, P. Bochsler, M. Bzowski, M. Collier, H. Fahr, H. Fichtner, P. Frisch, H. O. Funsten, S. A. Fuselier, G. Gloeckler, M. Gruntman, V. Izmodenov, P. Knappenberger, M. Lee, S. Livi, D. Mitchell, E. Möbius, T. Moore, S. PopeD. Reisenfeld, E. Roelof, J. Scherrer, N. Schwadron, R. Tyler, M. Wieser, M. Witte, P. Wurz, G. Zank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

331 Scopus citations


The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) is a small explorer mission that launched on 19 October 2008 with the sole, focused science objective to discover the global interaction between the solar wind and the interstellar medium. IBEX is designed to achieve this objective by answering four fundamental science questions: (1) What is the global strength and structure of the termination shock, (2) How are energetic protons accelerated at the termination shock, (3) What are the global properties of the solar wind flow beyond the termination shock and in the heliotail, and (4) How does the interstellar flow interact with the heliosphere beyond the heliopause? The answers to these questions rely on energy-resolved images of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs), which originate beyond the termination shock, in the inner heliosheath. To make these exploratory ENA observations IBEX carries two ultra-high sensitivity ENA cameras on a simple spinning spacecraft. IBEX's very high apogee Earth orbit was achieved using a new and significantly enhanced method for launching small satellites; this orbit allows viewing of the outer heliosphere from beyond the Earth's relatively bright magnetospheric ENA emissions. The combination of full-sky imaging and energy spectral measurements of ENAs over the range from ∼ 10 eV to 6 keV provides the critical information to allow us to achieve our science objective and understand this global interaction for the first time. The IBEX mission was developed to provide the first global views of the Sun's interstellar boundaries, unveiling the physics of the heliosphere's interstellar interaction, providing a deeper understanding of the heliosphere and thereby astrospheres throughout the galaxy, and creating the opportunity to make even greater unanticipated discoveries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-33
Number of pages23
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • ENA
  • Energetic Neutral Atom
  • Heliopause
  • Interstellar boundary
  • LISM
  • Termination shock


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