The Sun's motion through the interstellar medium leads to an interstellar neutral (ISN) wind through the heliosphere. Several ISN species, including He, moderately depleted by ionization are observed with pickup ions and directly imaged. Since 2009, analyzed Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) observations returned a precise 4D parameter tube associated with the bulk velocity vector and the temperature of ISN flow distribution. This 4D parameter tube is typically expressed in terms of the ISN speed, the inflow latitudinal direction, and the temperature as a function of the inflow longitudinal direction and the local flow Mach number. We have used IBEX observations and those from other spacecraft to reduce statistical parameter uncertainties: VISN∞ = 25.99 ± 0.18 km s-1, λISN∞ = 75°.28 ± 0°.13, βISN∞ = -5°.200 ± 07°.75, and TISN∞ = 7496 ± 172 K. IBEX ISN viewing is restricted almost perpendicular to the Earth-Sun line, which limits observations in ecliptic longitude to ∼130° ± 30° and results in relatively small uncertainties across the IBEX parameter tube but large uncertainties along it. Operations over the last three years enabled the IBEX spin axis to drift to the maximum operational offset (7°) west of the Sun, helping to break the ISN parameter degeneracy by weakly crossing the IBEX parameter tubes: the range of possible inflow longitudes extends over the range λISN∞ 75°.28+2.27-2.21 and the corresponding range of other ISN parameters is VISN∞ = 25.99+1.86-1.76km s-1, β ISN∞ = -5°.200+0.0.93-0.085, and TISN∞ = 7496+1274-1528K. This enhances the full χ 2 analysis of ISN parameters through comparison with detailed models. The next-generation IBEX-Lo sensor on IMAP will be mounted on a pivot platform, enabling IMAP-Lo to follow the ISN flow over almost the entire spacecraft orbit around the Sun. A near-continuous set of 4D parameter tube orientations on IMAP will be observed for He and for O, Ne, and H that cross at varying angles to substantially reduce the ISN flow parameter uncertainties and mitigate systematic uncertainties (e.g., from ionization effects and the presence of secondary components) to derive the precise parameters of the primary and secondary local interstellar plasma flows.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science