IBEX First Skymap Release

  • Released Thursday, October 15th, 2009
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:54PM
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The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission science team has used data from NASA's IBEX spacecraft to construct the first-ever all-sky map of the interactions occurring at the edge of the solar system, where the sun's influence diminishes and interacts with the interstellar medium. The interstellar boundary region shields our solar system from most of the dangerous galactic cosmic radiation that would otherwise enter from interstellar space.

This visualization illustrates the IBEX satellite in Earth orbit (the orbit reaching almost as far as the orbit of the Moon) and pulls out to beyond the heliopause boundary (the true 3-D nature of the boundary is reduced to a 2-D spherical surface). The sphere with the skymap opens to reproject the data into a near-Aitoff type map projection.

The skymap shows the measured flux of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs).

Our view moves closer to the plane of the ecliptic (the grid) illustrating how the orbit of IBEX extends almost as far as the Moon, but is inclined relative to the lunar orbit.

Our view moves closer to the plane of the ecliptic (the grid) illustrating how the orbit of IBEX extends almost as far as the Moon, but is inclined relative to the lunar orbit.

Pulling back from the Earth, we see a more complete view of the IBEX orbit (green) and also fade in a path representing the orbit of the Earth (blue).

Pulling back from the Earth, we see a more complete view of the IBEX orbit (green) and also fade in a path representing the orbit of the Earth (blue).

Pulling back even further from the Earth, we pass the Sun.  The violet arrow represents the direction of the Sun's motion with respect to the local interstellar medium.  We have now included the IBEX skymap as a semi-transparent layer (revealing the stars beyond).

Pulling back even further from the Earth, we pass the Sun. The violet arrow represents the direction of the Sun's motion with respect to the local interstellar medium. We have now included the IBEX skymap as a semi-transparent layer (revealing the stars beyond).

Pulling back farther still, beyond the orbit of Pluto, we view the IBEX skymap in the direction of the Sun's relative motion.  We also see the position of the two Voyager spacecraft.

Pulling back farther still, beyond the orbit of Pluto, we view the IBEX skymap in the direction of the Sun's relative motion. We also see the position of the two Voyager spacecraft.

We now pass outside the heliopause boundary.  The region of emission detected by IBEX is now represented by a thin spherical shell around the Sun.  In reality, the emission is probably from a much thicker region but the IBEX skymap cannot determine that scale.

We now pass outside the heliopause boundary. The region of emission detected by IBEX is now represented by a thin spherical shell around the Sun. In reality, the emission is probably from a much thicker region but the IBEX skymap cannot determine that scale.

We now open and distort the sphere projecting the IBEX skymap into a form similar to the Aitoff or Hammer map projection.

We now open and distort the sphere projecting the IBEX skymap into a form similar to the Aitoff or Hammer map projection.

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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio


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