JUN 05, 2018 05:02 PM PDT

Meet IMAP, NASA's Upcoming Mission to Study the Heliosphere

A protective bubble comprised of solar wind plasma surrounds the entire solar system. Known as the heliosphere, this bubble exists because the solar wind’s momentum eventually slows down enough that it can no longer resist the forces imposed by the interstellar medium. The point at which it stops resisting these forces forms the heliosphere’s boundary, known as the heliopause.

This illustration depicts the heliosphere and each of its components.

Image Credit: NASA/Walt Feimer

The heliosphere has captivated interest in the scientific community for decades, but the amount of available data regarding its physical properties is limited given just how few probes have visited this distant region of space some 18 billion kilometers away from Earth.

But a statement issued by NASA reveals the space agency’s plans to change that. As it would seem, NASA wants to move forward with a new mission in 2024 dubbed the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP). This spacecraft would study the heliosphere in further detail in an attempt to answer many of the questions that remain.

“This boundary is where our Sun does a great deal to protect us. IMAP is critical to broadening our understanding of how this ‘cosmic filter’ works,” explained Dennis Andrucyk, the deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“The implications of this research could reach well beyond the consideration of Earthly impacts as we look to send humans into deep space.”

Related: Did a solar storm damage Earth's magnetic field?

An artist's impression of the IMAP probe.

Image Credit: NASA

Flying this far away from Earth would take several decades, and that’s time NASA doesn’t have available to waste. That said, IMAP won’t fly directly to the edge of the solar system, but rather position itself approximately 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth in the first Lagrange point (L1) to analyze the interactions that transpire between interstellar particles and solar wind.

Related: Scientists expect 'Maunder Minimum'-like solar behavior over the next few decades

Scientists hope that IMAP might uncover vital details about how the heliosphere protects our planetary neighborhood from interstellar radiation and how said radiation could impact life or technological instruments onboard spacecraft during long-term space missions, among other things.

It should be fascinating to see what becomes of IMAP as NASA tackles the upcoming challenge.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 05, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 05, 2018
The Mystery Behind Oumuamua Continues...
Last year, Oumuamua became the first-known interstellar object to be identified by astronomers as it passed through our solar system. At first, astronomers...
NOV 25, 2018
Earth & The Environment
NOV 25, 2018
What Would Happen if An Asteroid Slammed Into One of Earth's Oceans?
Have you ever wondered what would happen if an asteroid plopped right into one of Earth’s oceans? Curious researchers wanted to know too, and so they...
DEC 19, 2018
DEC 19, 2018
Deep Learning Improves Cloud Detection Methods
To understand the workings of earth systems, atmospheric scientists often search data images for the clouds as part of their research. However, the manual...
JAN 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 15, 2019
Are You Prepared for This Weekend's Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse?
Nighttime sky gazers are in for a beautiful treat this weekend as the Moon prepares to put on a spectacular show. Beginning Sunday, January 20th at approxi...
JAN 16, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 16, 2019
Second Repeating Fast Radio Bursts Detected
Scientists working at Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, announced that they have detected a total of 13 fast radio bursts in July a...
JAN 22, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 22, 2019
Astronomers Probe the Disintegrating Exoplanet K2-22b for Answers
Astronomers around the globe are continuously scanning the cosmos to identify and study the unique characteristics of distant exoplanets. One of the ways t...
Loading Comments...