The NASA IBEX probe also known as the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, is a NASA satellite that will manufacture the first map of the boundary amid the Solar System. The operation is part of NASA’s Small Explorer program and the probe was launched on a Pegasus-XL rocket on October 19, 2008. The primary mission will last for approximately 2 years in which it will endeavour to map the complete solar system boundary.
The IBEX mission is being directed by the Southwest Research Institute, with Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Centre serving as Co-Investigator institutions accountable for the IBEX-Hi and IBEX-Lo sensors. Orbital Sciences Corporation supplied the spacecraft bus and was the location for spacecraft environmental examination. NASA masterminds have remotely examined the systems aboard the spacecraft and so far, said Eric Christian, program scientist for NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer program, all systems are fully operational.
The spacecraft will centre its concentration on the ‘interstellar boundary’, the brink of our solar system where the hot solar wind sweeps into the cold expanse of space. The active neutral atom (ENA) generated images IBEX will capture, will expectantly help scientists figure out the fundamental interaction between our sun and the Milky Way galaxy. The interstellar boundary areas are important because they protect the Earth from the huge and extremely dangerous galactic cosmic rays, which otherwise would enter into Earth’s orbit and cause human space flight to be much more hazardous. NASA began collecting data on the outer reaches of the solar system when Voyager 1 and 2, began in 1977, and navigated through our inner solar system for a trip toward the frontier. Officials commented at the time that both Voyagers had obtained “totally unexpected” data from both spacecrafts, and this valuable data refuted many long held ideologies about the region.
Using this information, research workers will inspect the structures and dynamics of the outer hemisphere and address a genuine test facing manned exploration, by investigating the area that shields Earth from the majority of galactic cosmic ray radiations. It has now been 4 months since the original launch, and IBEX Principal Investigator Dr. David McComas commented that they are receiving some ‘fantastic science results’. It is understood the data produced so far have provided some exceptional clear spatial variations in both the fluxes and energies of the neutral atoms travelling in from the edge of the solar system. A significant progress update is expected to be announced this summer following the completion of the first all sky map.