The heliotail revealed by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer

D. J. McComas, M. A. Dayeh, H. O. Funsten, G. Livadiotis, N. A. Schwadron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Recent combined observations from the first three years of Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) data allow us to examine the heliosphere's downwind region - the heliotail - for the first time. In contrast to a preliminary identification of a narrow "offset heliotail" structure, we find a broad slow solar wind plasma sheet crossing essentially the entire downwind side of the heliosphere at low to mid-latitudes, with fast wind tail regions to the north and south. The slow wind plasma sheet exhibits the steepest ENA spectra in the IBEX sky maps, appears as a two-lobed structure (lobes on the port and starboard sides), and is twisted in the sense of (but at a smaller angle than) the external magnetic field. The overall heliotail structure clearly demonstrates the intermediate nature of the heliosphere's interstellar interaction, where both the external dynamic and magnetic pressures strongly affect the heliosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number77
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 10 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • ISM: magnetic fields
  • Sun: heliosphere
  • solar wind


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