Detection of Interstellar Pick-Up Hydrogen in the Solar System

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Science  02 Jul 1993:
Vol. 261, Issue 5117, pp. 70-73
DOI: 10.1126/science.261.5117.70


Interstellar hydrogen ionized primarily by the solar wind has been detected by the SWICS instrument on the Ulysses spacecraft at a distance of 4.8 astronomical units from the sun. This "pick-up" hydrogen is identified by its distinct velocity distribution function, which drops abruptly at twice the local solar wind speed. From the measured fluxes of pick-up protons and singly charged helium, the number densities of neutral hydrogen and helium in the distant regions of the solar system are estimated to be 0.077 ± 0.015 and 0.013 ± 0.003 per cubic centimeter, respectively.