Called the Interstellar Boundary Explorer or IBEX, the spacecraft will conduct extremely high-altitude orbits above Earth to investigate and capture images of processes taking place at the farthest reaches of the solar system. Known as the interstellar boundary, this region marks where the solar system meets interstellar space.
"The interstellar boundary regions are critical because they shield us from the vast majority of dangerous galactic cosmic rays, which otherwise would penetrate into Earth's orbit and make human spaceflight much more dangerous," said David J. McComas, IBEX principal investigator and senior executive director of the Space Science and Engineering Division at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
The story of the outer solar system began to unfold when the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts left the inner solar system and headed out toward the boundary between our solar system and interstellar space.
"The Voyager spacecraft are making fascinating observations of the local conditions at two points beyond the termination shock that show totally unexpected results and challenge many of our notions about this important region," said McComas.
Other spacecraft have continued the exploration of the interstellar boundary region. Recently, a pair of NASA sun-focused satellites, the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory mission, detected a higher-energy version of the particles IBEX will observe in the heliosphere. The heliosphere is an area that contains the solar wind. It stretches from the sun to a distance several times the orbit of Pluto.
IBEX is poised to thoroughly map this interstellar boundary region of the solar system. The images will allow scientists to understand the global interaction between our sun and the galaxy for the very first time.
IBEX will be launched aboard a Pegasus rocket dropped from under the wing of an L-1011 aircraft flying over the Pacific Ocean. The Pegasus will carry the spacecraft approximately 130 miles above Earth and place it in orbit.
"What makes the IBEX mission unique is that it has an extra kick during launch," said Willis Jenkins, IBEX program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "An extra solid-state motor pushes the spacecraft further out of low-Earth orbit where the Pegasus launch vehicle leaves it."
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18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin
Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino
16.07.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
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Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
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Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
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Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
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