Spatial retention of ions producing the IBEX ribbon

N. A. Schwadron, D. J. McComas

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96 Scopus citations


The ribbon observed by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission is a narrow, ∼20° wide feature that stretches across much of the sky in the global flux of energetic neutral atoms from the outer heliosphere. The ribbon remains an enigma despite its persistence after 3 years of IBEX observations and after almost a dozen theories that attempt to explain it. While each theory that has been posed has its strengths, each one also contradicts IBEX observations or demonstrates significant flaws in internal consistency. Here, we present a new theory that is different than any of the existing ideas and yet accounts for many of the key observations. We argue that the ribbon could be produced by a spatial region in the local interstellar medium where newly ionized atoms are temporarily contained through increased rates of scattering by locally generated waves in the electromagnetic fields. The particles in the ribbon are created predominantly from neutralized solar wind and neutralized pickup ions from inside the solar wind termination shock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number92
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 10 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Sun: heliosphere
  • plasmas
  • scattering
  • solar wind


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