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The Astrophysical Journal


The American Astronomical Society

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The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission continues to measure energetic neutral atom (ENA) emissions produced by charge exchange between solar wind (SW) protons and interstellar neutrals at the edge of our heliosphere. Using the first 3 yr of IBEX-Hi ENA measurements (2009-2011), we examined the spectral evolution of ~0.5-6 keV ENAs at the polar regions (above 60°). We found the following: (1) pixels with a characteristic "ankle" spectra (lower spectral index at higher energies) increase by ~5% in 2010 and ~10% in 2011 compared to 2009. (2) The averaged spectral index in 2011 is smaller than that of 2009. (3) The slope of the ENA spectrum above ~1.7 keV is more variable than the slope below ~1.7 keV. The lower spectral index at higher energies of the spectrum does not appear to be caused by an increase of the ENA production at these energies, but rather from a consistent decrease at lower energies. (4) The decrease in polar ENA fluxes does not correlate significantly with the averaged SW dynamic pressure, back-traced in time to 1 AU along the flow streamlines (originating between 10° and 30° for slow SW, and 60° and 80°for fast SW), assuming these are the respective conditions of ENA progenitors back in time. These results provide insights into the complexity of relating the slow and fast SW contributions to polar ENAs and shed light on how the solar output and the resulting change in the global heliospheric structure possibly affect the heliohealth (HS) populations.




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