HMC Physics Colloquium

Tuesdays at 16:30 in Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning, Room B460

David McComas

Southwest Research Institute

The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX): Discovering The Interaction Between Our Solar System and the Galaxy

Nov. 7, 2006

The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission ( will launch in mid-2008 and provide the first global views of the interstellar interactions and boundaries at the edge of our heliosphere (the region dominated by the Sun’s influence). IBEX makes these exploratory observations using two ultra-high sensitivity single pixel energetic neutral atom (ENA) cameras that image ENAs from 10 eV - 6 keV in 14 energy bands. The IBEX spacecraft is a simple sun-pointed spinner, which allows the ENA cameras to sweep out full sky views of the heliospheric interaction every six months. IBEX’s first-of-a-kind, low-cost launch, into a very high apogee Earth orbit (~50 Re), uses a small Pegasus rocket, launched from an airplane flown out of Kwajalein (Marshall Islands), coupled with an additional solid rocket motor and the spacecraft’s hydrazine propulsion system. IBEX’s highly elliptical Earth orbit allows viewing of the outer heliosphere from beyond the Earth’s relatively bright magnetospheric ENA emissions. This seminar provides an overview of the IBEX science, instrumentation, and mission, as well as briefly highlighting the sort of career possibilities available for entry level engineers at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and a new graduate program in Physics conducted jointly by SwRI and the University of Texas.