Structure of the interstellar boundary explorer ribbon from secondary charge-exchange at the solar-interstellar interface

E. J. Zirnstein, J. Heerikhuisen, D. J. McComas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

In 2009, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer discovered a bright "ribbon" of energetic neutral atom (ENA) flux in the energy range ≤0.4-6 keV, encircling a large portion of the sky. This observation was not previously predicted by any models or theories, and since its discovery, it has been the subject of numerous studies of its origin and properties. One of the most studied mechanisms for its creation is the "secondary ENA" process. Here, solar wind ions, neutralized by charge-exchange with interstellar atoms, propagate outside the heliopause; experience two charge-exchange events in the dense outer heliosheath; and then propagate back inside the heliosphere, preferentially in the direction perpendicular to the local interstellar magnetic field. This process has been extensively analyzed using state-of-the-art modeling and simulation techniques, but it has been difficult to visualize. In this Letter, we show the three-dimensional structure of the source of the ribbon, providing a physical picture of the spatial and energy scales over which the secondary ENA process occurs. These results help us understand how the ribbon is generated and further supports a secondary ENA process as the leading ribbon source mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume804
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • ISM: atoms
  • ISM: magnetic fields
  • Methods: numerical
  • Solar wind
  • Sun: heliosphere

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