The Heliosphere and Local Interstellar Medium from Neutral Atom Observations at Energies Below 10 keV

Space Sci Rev. 2022;218(4):31. doi: 10.1007/s11214-022-00901-7. Epub 2022 May 23.


As the heliosphere moves through the surrounding interstellar medium, a fraction of the interstellar neutral helium, hydrogen, and heavier species crossing the heliopause make it to the inner heliosphere as neutral atoms with energies ranging from few eV to several hundred eV. In addition, energetic neutral hydrogen atoms originating from solar wind protons and from pick-up ions are created through charge-exchange with interstellar atoms. This review summarizes all observations of heliospheric energetic neutral atoms and interstellar neutrals at energies below 10 keV. Most of these data were acquired with the Interstellar Boundary Explorer launched in 2008. Among many other IBEX breakthroughs, it provided the first ever all-sky maps of energetic neutral atoms from the heliosphere and enabled the science community to measure in-situ interstellar neutral hydrogen, oxygen, and neon for the first time. These observations have revolutionized and keep challenging our understanding of the heliosphere shaped by the combined forces of the local interstellar flow, the local interstellar magnetic field, and the time-dependent solar wind.

Keywords: Heliosphere; Interstellar medium; Solar wind.

Publication types

  • Review