Probing the Magnetosheath Boundaries Using Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) Orbital Encounters

S. T. Hart, M. A. Dayeh, D. B. Reisenfeld, P. H. Janzen, D. J. McComas, F. Allegrini, S. A. Fuselier, K. Ogasawara, J. R. Szalay, H. O. Funsten, S. M. Petrinec

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4 Scopus citations


Inside the magnetosheath, the IBEX-Hi energetic neutral atom (ENA) imager measures a distinct background count rate that is more than 10 times the typical heliospheric ENA emissions observed when IBEX is outside the magnetosheath. The source of this enhancement is magnetosheath ions of solar wind (SW) origin that deflect around the Earth's magnetopause (MP), scatter and neutralize from the anti-sunward part of the IBEX-Hi sunshade, and continue into the instrument as neutral atoms, behaving indistinguishably from ENAs emitted from distant plasma sources. While this background pollutes observations of outer heliospheric ENAs, it provides a clear signature of IBEX crossings over the magnetospheric boundaries. In this study, we investigate IBEX encounters with the magnetosheath boundaries using ∼8 yr of orbital data, and we determine the MP and bow shock (BS) locations derived from this background signal. We find 280 BS crossings from XGSE ∼ 11 Re to XGSE ∼ −36 Re and 241 MP crossings from XGSE ∼ 6 Re to XGSE ∼ −48 Re. We compare IBEX BS and MP crossing locations to those from IMP-8, Geotail, Cluster, Magion-4, ISEE, and Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, and we find that IBEX crossing locations overlap with the BS and MP locations inferred from these other data sets. In this paper, we demonstrate how IBEX can be used to identify magnetosheath crossings, and extend boundary observations well past the terminator, thus further constraining future models of magnetosheath boundaries. Furthermore, we use the IBEX data set to show observational evidence of near-Earth magnetotail squeezing during periods of strong interplanetary magnetic field By.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JA029278
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • IBEX
  • Solar wind
  • bow shock
  • magnetopause
  • magnetosheath
  • magnetotail


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