Roughly the size of a card table, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) is the latest in NASA's series of low-cost, rapidly developed Small Explorers spacecraft.
This NASA-provided graphic shows the heliosphere around the sun. The region is dominated by the sun and s inflated, like a bubble, in local interstellar material by the million mile-per-hour solar wind. This bubble keeps out the ionized or charged particles and magnetic fields from the galaxy and so protects us from dangerous galactic cosmic rays.
Artist's impression of NASA's IBEX spacecraft exploring the edge of our solar system.
The galactic wind streams toward the sun from the direction of Scorpio and IBEX has found that it travels at 52,000 miles an hour. The speed of the galactic wind and its subsequent pressure on the outside of the solar system's boundary affects the shape of the heliosphere as it travels through space.
The Milky Way Galaxy is organized into spiral arms of giant stars that illuminate interstellar gas and dust. The sun is in a finger called the Orion Spur.
NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) has found that there's more oxygen in our solar system than there is in the nearby interstellar material, the space agency announced on Jan. 31, 2012.
IBEX has two sensors one on each side: IBEX Hi and IBEX Lo. This photo shows the IBEX Hi sensor. Each time an energetic neutral atom comes in to one of the sensors, it is recorded. At the end of six months of that data it will give scientists a picture of the entire 360 degrees longitude celestial sphere.
IBEX has two sensors one on each side: IBEX Hi and IBEX Lo. This photo shows the IBEX Lo sensor. Each time an energetic neutral atom comes in to one of the sensors, it is recorded. At the end of six months of that data it will give scientists a picture of the entire 360 degrees longitude celestial sphere.
The picture shows integration testing in the clean room with the spacecraft side panels (left and right), which hold the IBEX Hi and Lo sensors, connected to the rest of the spacecraft (center) via jumper cables.
The picture shows the IBEX payload on its test fixture just before the technicians inserted it in to the thermal vacuum chamber.
An all-sky map made by the IBEX spacecraft shows a surprising bright ribbon of emission coming from the edge of the solar system.
The IBEX spacecraft has found that Energetic Neutral Atoms, or ENAs, are coming from a region just outside Earth's magnetopause where nearly stationary protons from the solar wind interact with the tenuous cloud of hydrogen atoms in Earth's exosphere.
This image shows the first-ever view of the magnetospheric plasma sheet in profile, as seen by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) from outside the magnetosphere. It shows the densest portions of the plasma sheet, largely following the modeled magnetic structure.
NASA's IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft discovered a mysterious giant ribbon at the edge of the solar system. The mystery may have been solved. "We believe the ribbon is a reflection," says Jacob Heerikhuisen, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "It is where solar wind particles heading out into interstellar space are reflected back into the solar system by a galactic magnetic field."