Two Years of the STEREO Heliospheric Imagers
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- Harrison, R.A., Davies, J.A., Rouillard, A.P. et al. Sol Phys (2009) 256: 219. doi:10.1007/s11207-009-9352-7
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Imaging of the heliosphere is a burgeoning area of research. As a result, it is awash with new results, using novel applications, and is demonstrating great potential for future research in a wide range of topical areas. The STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) Heliospheric Imager (HI) instruments are at the heart of this new development, building on the pioneering observations of the SMEI (Solar Mass Ejection Imager) instrument aboard the Coriolis spacecraft. Other earlier heliospheric imaging systems have included ground-based interplanetary scintillation (IPS) facilities and the photometers on the Helios spacecraft. With the HI instruments, we now have routine wide-angle imaging of the inner heliosphere, from vantage points outside the Sun-Earth line. HI has been used to investigate the development of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) as they pass through the heliosphere to 1 AU and beyond. Synoptic mapping has also allowed us to see graphic illustrations of the nature of mass outflow as a function of distance from the Sun – in particular, stressing the complexity of the near-Sun solar wind. The instruments have also been used to image co-rotating interaction regions (CIRs), to study the interaction of comets with the solar wind and CMEs, and to witness the impact of CMEs and CIRs on planets. The very nature of this area of research – which brings together aspects of solar physics, space-environment physics, and solar-terrestrial physics – means that the research papers are spread among a wide range of journals from different disciplines. Thus, in this special issue, it is timely and appropriate to provide a review of the results of the first two years of the HI investigations.