UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP)
The Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) is a science mission of NASA planned to be launched sample, analyze, and map the particles streaming to Earth from the edges of interstellar space. It is scheduled to be launched in the year 2024. IMAP is the fifth mission in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Program portfolio. The other four being
- The Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), a collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency) that enabled a global view of the Sun and inner heliosphere
- The Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission currently investigating the fundamental process of magnetic reconnection near Earth
- The solar remote sensing mission Hinode, an ongoing collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
- The Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED), a mission observing the outermost layers of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Objectives of the mission:
- To study the heliosphere – the region of space, encompassing the solar system, in which the solar wind has a significant influence. It is a magnetic bubble that surrounds our solar system.
- Learn about the cosmic rays generated in the heliosphere.
- The IMAP mission will help researchers better understand the boundary of the heliosphere.
- By exploring the global heliosphere and its myriad interactions, key physical knowledge of the interstellar interactions that influence exoplanetary habitability as well as the distant history and destiny of our solar system and the world could be developed.
- Cosmic rays created locally and from the galaxy and beyond affect human explorers in space and can harm technological systems, and likely play a role in the presence of life itself in the universe. Therefore cosmic rays have been the object of speculation and study for many years.
Positioning of the spacecraft:
The spacecraft will be positioned about one million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth towards the Sun. This point is called the first Lagrange point or L1. This particular positioning would allow the probe to maximize the use of its instruments to monitor the interactions between solar wind and the interstellar medium in the outer solar system.
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