The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) is a NASA satellite in Earth orbit, dedicated to observing interstellar neutral (ISN) atoms entering the heliosphere and energetic neutral atoms from the heliosheath from 11 eV to 6 keV. This work presents comprehensive maps of ISN hydrogen observed with IBEX at energies between 11 and 41 eV, covering almost an entire solar cycle from 2009 to 2018. ISN hydrogen measurements can provide information on the interstellar medium and on the heliosphere that modifies the incoming ISN flow. Whereas hydrogen is the dominant species in the unperturbed interstellar medium, most ISN hydrogen atoms crossing into the heliosphere do not reach the inner solar system: some are filtered out around the heliopause, while others are held off by solar radiation pressure or may be ionized as they approach the Sun. This paper presents and evaluates several approaches for generating model-free maps of ISN hydrogen from IBEX measurements. We discuss the basic implications of our results for ISN hydrogen inflow and outline the remaining discrepancies between observations and model predictions. Our maps show, during weak solar activity from 2009 to 2011, a clear signal of ISN hydrogen for ecliptic longitudes between 240° and 310°, roughly one month after the signal of ISN helium has peaked. When the solar activity approached its maximum around 2014, the ISN hydrogen signal weakened and dropped below the detection threshold because of increasing solar radiation pressure and ionization. The ISN hydrogen signal then reappeared in 2017.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science
- Sun: heliosphere
- solar wind