Tracking the solar cycle through IBEX observations of energetic neutral atom flux variations at the heliospheric poles

Reisenfeld, D. B.; Bzowski, M.; Funsten, H. O.; Fuselier, S. A.; Galli, André; Janzen, P. H.; Karna, N.; Kubiak, M. A.; McComas, D. J.; Schwadron, N. A.; Sokół, J. M. (2016). Tracking the solar cycle through IBEX observations of energetic neutral atom flux variations at the heliospheric poles. Astrophysical journal, 833(2), p. 277. Institute of Physics Publishing IOP 10.3847/1538-4357/833/2/277

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With seven years of Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) observations, from 2009 to 2015, we can now trace the time evolution of heliospheric energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) through over half a solar cycle. At the north and south ecliptic poles, the spacecraft attitude allows for continuous coverage of the ENA flux; thus, signal from these regions has much higher statistical accuracy and time resolution than anywhere else in the sky. By comparing the solar wind dynamic pressure measured at 1 au with the heliosheath plasma pressure derived from the observed ENA fluxes, we show that the heliosheath pressure measured at the poles correlates well with the solar cycle. The analysis requires time-shifting the ENA measurements to account for the travel time out and back from the heliosheath, which allows us to estimate the scale size of the heliosphere in the polar directions. We arrive at an estimated distance to the center of the ENA source region in the north of 220 au and in the south a distance of 190 au. We also find a good correlation between the solar cycle and the ENA energy spectra at the poles. In particular, the ENA flux for the highest IBEX energy channel (4.3 keV) is quite closely correlated with the areas of the polar coronal holes, in both the north and south, consistent with the notion that polar ENAs at this energy originate from pickup ions of the very high speed wind (~700 km s−1) that emanates from polar coronal holes.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Galli, André


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
500 Science > 530 Physics
600 Technology > 620 Engineering




Institute of Physics Publishing IOP




Katharina Weyeneth-Moser

Date Deposited:

18 Jul 2017 12:14

Last Modified:

18 Jul 2017 12:14

Publisher DOI:





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