Evolving outer heliosphere: Large-scale stability and time variations observed by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer



[1] The first all-sky maps of Energetic Neutral Atoms (ENAs) from the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) exhibited smoothly varying, globally distributed flux and a narrow “ribbon” of enhanced ENA emissions. In this study we compare the second set of sky maps to the first in order to assess the possibility of temporal changes over the 6 months between views of each portion of the sky. While the large-scale structure is generally stable between the two sets of maps, there are some remarkable changes that show that the heliosphere is also evolving over this short timescale. In particular, we find that (1) the overall ENA emissions coming from the outer heliosphere appear to be slightly lower in the second set of maps compared to the first, (2) both the north and south poles have significantly lower (∼10–15%) ENA emissions in the second set of maps compared to the first across the energy range from 0.5 to 6 keV, and (3) the “knot” in the northern portion of the ribbon in the first maps is less bright and appears to have spread and/or dissipated by the time the second set was acquired. Finally, the spatial distribution of fluxes in the southernmost portion of the ribbon has evolved slightly, perhaps moving as much as 6° (one map pixel) equatorward on average. The observed large-scale stability and these systematic changes at smaller spatial scales provide important new information about the outer heliosphere and its global interaction with the galaxy and help inform possible mechanisms for producing the IBEX ribbon.