Towards Improved Heliosphere Sky Map Estimation with Theseus

Dave Osthus, Brian P. Weaver, Lauren J. Beesley, Kelly R. Moran, Madeline A. Stricklin, Eric J. Zirnstein, Paul H. Janzen, Daniel B. Reisenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) satellite has been in orbit since 2008 and detects energy-resolved energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) originating from the heliosphere. Different regions of the heliosphere generate ENAs at different rates. It is of scientific interest to take the data collected by IBEX and estimate spatial maps of heliospheric ENA rates (referred to as sky maps) at higher resolutions than before. These sky maps will subsequently be used to discern between competing theories of heliosphere properties that are not currently possible. The data IBEX collects present challenges to sky map estimation. The two primary challenges are noisy and irregularly spaced data collection and the IBEX instrumentation’s point spread function. In essence, the data collected by IBEX are both noisy and biased for the underlying sky map of inferential interest. In this article, we present a two-stage sky map estimation procedure called Theseus. In Stage 1, Theseus estimates a blurred sky map from the noisy and irregularly spaced data using an ensemble approach that leverages projection pursuit regression and generalized additive models. In Stage 2, Theseus deblurs the sky map by deconvolving the PSF with the blurred map using regularization. Unblurred sky map uncertainties are computed via bootstrapping. We compare Theseus to a method closely related to the one operationally used today by the IBEX Science Operation Center (ISOC) on both simulated and real data. Theseus outperforms ISOC in nearly every considered metric on simulated data, indicating that Theseus is an improvement over the current state of the art.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Deconvolution
  • Ensemble models
  • Generalized additive models
  • Heliosphere
  • Projection pursuit regression
  • Regularization


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