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Energetic Neutral Atoms (ENA) in Space


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Energetic Neutral Atom Imaging: The Next Step
(invited talk at the Fall Meeting, AGU, December 2012)
15 minutes: time interval 16:03-31:30 in the YouTube video of the session


Imaging in Fluxes of Energetic Neutral Atoms (ENA Imaging)

A new field of space experiments and instrumentation has emerged: imaging of space plasmas in fluxes of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs). It took over 25 years from the first vague concepts of late 1970s to develop experimental techniques and instrumentation. (See review of experimental techniques and instrumentation in Review of Scientific Instruments, 1997.) The concept of ENA imaging has spectacularly demonstrated its power on the NASA’s IMAGE mission (launched in 2000) carrying three ENA instruments for imaging magnetospheric processes in different energy ranges. (See also NASA's IMAGE site.) The Cassini spacecraft uses a special imaging neutral atom camera (INCA) to study the magnetosphere of Saturn. NASA mission TWINS provides for the first time a spectroscopic view in ENAs of the terrestrial magnetosphere by simultaneous observation from two spacecraft.

NASA approved in January 2005 a new space mission to probe the galactic frontier of the solar system by imaging the heliosphere in ENA fluxes. This missions – Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) – will be launched in October 2008. The scientific rationale and experiment concept are described in details in Journal of Geophysical Research, 2001.

The concept of ENA imaging the heliosphere first emerged in 1979-1980. While the first simple dedicated space experiment to detect heliospheric ENAs was developed in mid-1980s, the instrument has never flown. (See History of ENA study in space.)

It took almost twenty years to refine the concept of the experiment of heliosphere ENA imaging and to mature the instrumentation technology.



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