Eyeing the Edge of the Solar System

Dec. 10, 2008
NASA recently put the Ibex (Interstellar Boundary EXplorer) satellite in orbit around the Earth

NASA recently put the Ibex (Interstellar Boundary EXplorer) satellite in orbit around the Earth, launching it from a Pegasus XL rocket on a two year mission to detect atoms emitted from the border between the solar system and interstellar space. There, solar winds traveling millions of miles per hour collide with the interstellar cloud through which the solar system moves and create a shock wave of hot atoms. Ibex will carry a high-energy neutral-atom imager designed and built at Los Alamos National Lab. It acts as a camera that detects atoms instead of light. “Every six months we will make global sky maps of where these atoms come from and how fast they are traveling,” says Herb Funsten, a Los Alamos scientist. “From those, we will discover properties of the interstellar cloud and what lies beyond our solar system.”

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