IBEX Catches Interstellar Wind and Images the Solar System Boundary


Program Description:

400 years after Galileo pointed a telescope at the sky for the first time, astronomers have added neutral atoms to their toolbox with the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), launched October 19, 2008. Two neutral atom (ENA) cameras take global images of the interaction of the solar system with its galactic neighborhood. They have returned stunning images of the solar system boundary, where the solar wind is forced to slow down by the surrounding interstellar gas. The images show an unexpected bright “Ribbon” across the sky, which serves as a marker for the direction of the magnetic field outside the solar system. IBEX also catches the interstellar wind of neutral H, He, O, and Ne atoms that blows through the solar system with a speed of 85,000 km/h due to the motion of the Sun through the neighboring interstellar gas cloud. We are likely still in the LIC for which astronomical observations place the solar system at the trailing edge and about to exit.


Eberhard Moebius

Eberhard Möbius is a Professor in the Physics Department and the Space Science Center. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and at he received the Arthur K. Whitcomb Professorship in 1997, the Class of 1940 Professorship in 2008, and the Distinguished Professor Award in 2010. His research is centered around the acceleration of particles in and their transport through space using state-of-the-art instruments on spacecraft. Most recently the research focuses on the interstellar gas outside the solar system and its interaction with the heliosphere that surrounds our solar system. Interstellar gas constitutes a sample of cosmic material that is distinct from the sun and its planets and thus provides clues on the evolution of matter and on the origin of stars, planets and us. He is also engaged in interdisciplinary seminars for students together with colleagues from Philosophy, Religious Studies and Biology, where he tries to bridge the gap between the sciences and humanities. Through public lectures and engagements he shares his ideas and findings with the general public.

Other topics offered by Eberhard Moebius