, Volume 146, Issue 1-4, pp 75-103
Date: 23 Apr 2009

The Interstellar Boundary Explorer High Energy (IBEX-Hi) Neutral Atom Imager

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Abstract

The IBEX-Hi Neutral Atom Imager of the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission is designed to measure energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) originating from the interaction region between the heliosphere and the local interstellar medium (LISM). These ENAs are plasma ions that have been heated in the interaction region and neutralized by charge exchange with the cold neutral atoms of the LISM that freely flow through the interaction region. IBEX-Hi is a single pixel ENA imager that covers the ENA spectral range from 0.38 to 6 keV and shares significant energy overlap and overall design philosophy with the IBEX-Lo sensor. Because of the anticipated low flux of these ENAs at 1 AU, the sensor has a large geometric factor and incorporates numerous techniques to minimize noise and backgrounds. The IBEX-Hi sensor has a field-of-view (FOV) of 6.5°×6.5° FWHM, and a 6.5°×360° swath of the sky is imaged over each spacecraft spin. IBEX-Hi utilizes an ultrathin carbon foil to ionize ENAs in order to measure their energy by subsequent electrostatic analysis. A multiple coincidence detection scheme using channel electron multiplier (CEM) detectors enables reliable detection of ENAs in the presence of substantial noise. During normal operation, the sensor steps through six energy steps every 12 spacecraft spins. Over a single IBEX orbit of about 8 days, a single 6.5°×360° swath of the sky is viewed, and re-pointing of the spin axis toward the Sun near perigee of each IBEX orbit moves the ecliptic longitude by about 8° every orbit such that a full sky map is acquired every six months. These global maps, covering the spectral range of IBEX-Hi and coupled to the IBEX-Lo maps at lower and overlapping energies, will answer fundamental questions about the structure and dynamics of the interaction region between the heliosphere and the LISM.