IBEX Ribbon Separation Using Spherical Harmonic Decomposition of the Globally Distributed Flux

P. Swaczyna, T. J. Eddy, E. J. Zirnstein, M. A. Dayeh, D. J. McComas, H. O. Funsten, N. A. Schwadron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Remote imaging of plasmas in the heliosphere and very local interstellar medium is possible with energetic neutral atoms (ENAs), created through the charge exchange of protons with interstellar neutral atoms. ENA observations collected by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) revealed two distinctive sources. One source is the globally distributed flux (GDF), which extends over the entire sky and varies over large spatial scales. The other source encompasses only a narrow circular band in the sky and is called the IBEX ribbon. Here, we utilize the observed difference in spatial scales of these two ENA sources to separate them. We find that linear combinations of spherical harmonics up to degree ℓmax = 3 can reproduce most of the ENA fluxes observed outside the ribbon region. We use these combinations to model the GDF and the difference between the observed fluxes and the GDF yields estimation of the ribbon emission. The separated ribbon responds with a longer time delay to the solar wind changes than the GDF, suggesting a more distant source of the ribbon ENAs. Moreover, we locate the direction of the maximum plasma pressure based on the GDF. This direction is 17°.2 ± 0°.5 away from the upwind direction within the plane containing the interstellar flow and interstellar magnetic field vectors. This deflection is consistent with the expected position of the maximum external pressure at the heliopause. The maps with separated ribbon and GDF are posted concurrently with this paper and can be used to further study these two sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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