A new, upcoming NASA mission’s been selected that will take a deep look into and map the many tiny particles streaming to Earth from interstellar space. It’s called the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission and it’s due to launch in 2024.

The IMAP mission will help researchers gain a deeper understanding of the boundary of the heliosphere. This is where a constant flow of particles emitted from our Sun collides with other galactical material. As a result, it limits how much harmful cosmic radiation gets into the heliosphere. Those particles that do make it through will be scrutinized by IMAP.

“This boundary is where our Sun does a great deal to protect us,” explained Dennis Andrucyk, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “IMAP is critical to broadening our understanding of how this ‘cosmic filter’ works. The implications of this research could reach well beyond the consideration of Earthly impacts as we look to send humans into deep space.”

The team is also looking to learn more about how cosmic rays are generated within the heliosphere as part of their mission. To do this they will position the spacecraft around one million miles or so from the Earth at an angle pointing towards the Sun. This allows the probe to monitor the interactions taking place between the solar wind and the interstellar medium that’s found in the outer solar system. 

This is the fifth mission of its kind to add to the NASA Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Program. Others included in the portfolio are the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission; the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission; the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission; and the solar remote sensing mission Hinode.

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