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IBEX Catches Interstellar Wind and Images the Solar System Boundary
400 years after Galileo pointed a telescope at the sky for the first time, astronomers have added neutral atoms to their toolbox with the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), launched October 19, 2008. Two neutral atom (ENA) cameras take global images of the interaction of the solar system with its galactic neighborhood. They have returned stunning images of the solar system boundary, where the solar wind is forced to slow down by the surrounding interstellar gas. The images show an unexpected bright “Ribbon” across the sky, which serves as a marker for the direction of the magnetic field outside the solar system. IBEX also catches the interstellar wind of neutral H, He, O, and Ne atoms that blows through the solar system with a speed of 85,000 km/h due to the motion of the Sun through the neighboring interstellar gas cloud. We are likely still in the LIC for which astronomical observations place the solar system at the trailing edge and about to exit.