Strong Scattering of ~keV Pickup Ions in the Local Interstellar Magnetic Field Draped Around Our Heliosphere: Implications for the IBEX Ribbon's Source and IMAP

Astrophys J. 2019 May 10;876(2):10.3847/1538-4357/ab15d6. doi: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab15d6. Epub 2019 May 8.


The leading hypothesis for the origin of the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) "ribbon" of enhanced energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) from the outer heliosphere is the secondary ENA mechanism, whereby neutralized solar wind ions escape the heliosphere and, after several charge-exchange processes, may propagate back toward Earth primarily in directions perpendicular to the local interstellar magnetic field (ISMF). However, the physical processes governing the parent protons outside of the heliopause are still unconstrained. In this study, we compute the "spatial retention" model proposed by Schwadron & McComas (2013) in a 3D simulated heliosphere. In their model, pickup ions outside the heliopause that originate from the neutral solar wind are spatially-retained in a region of space via strong pitch angle scattering before becoming ENAs. We find that the ribbon's intensity and shape can vary greatly depending on the pitch angle scattering rate both inside and outside the spatial retention region, potentially contributing to the globally distributed flux. The draping of the ISMF around the heliopause creates an asymmetry in the average distance to the ribbon's source as well as an asymmetry in the ribbon's shape, i.e., radial cross section of ENA flux through the circular ribbon. The spatial retention model adds an additional asymmetry to the ribbon's shape due to the enhancement of ions in the retention region close to the heliopause. Finally, we demonstrate how the ribbon's structure observed at 1 au is affected by different instrument capabilities, and how the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) may observe the ribbon.