What will IBEX observations tell us?
Image Credit: SwRI/IBEX Team
Because IBEX provides global maps of the interaction of the heliosphere with the interstellar medium, IBEX observations are complementary to and synergistic with detailed single point measurements from Voyager. IBEX selection provides excellent timing both within the solar cycle and because Voyager, with its single point observations near the termination shock, provides valuable context for IBEX's global images of this unexplored boundary. Energetic neutral atoms (ENAs), which are produced by charge exchange between ions and interstellar neutrals beyond the termination shock, propagate unimpeded into the inner heliosphere. By combining recently developed and flight proven ENA imaging techniques with an innovative mission design, IBEX provides the first global views of the Sun's interstellar boundaries. These energy-resolved ENA images provide robust observations of the heliosphere's interstellar interaction, regardless of the detailed physical processes, enabling a deeper understanding of the heliosphere and thereby astrospheres throughout the galaxy. IBEX's all-sky maps of the interstellar interaction are the Sun-Earth Connection (SEC) equivalent of the breakthrough COBE and WMAP observations. Because these images reveal a region never seen before, they also may lead to even greater, unanticipated discoveries.