Jacob Heerikhuisen

Assistant Professorjacob heerikhuisen


Office: Cramer Hall 2037

Phone: 256-961-7318





  • B.S. 1996, University of Waikato
  • M.S. 1997, University of Waikato
  • Ph.D. 2001, University of Waikato


Research Interests

I study the interaction of the solar wind with the interstellar medium using a variety of computational tools developed by our team of heliospheric modelers in the UAH Space Science department and CSPAR. In particular, I have developed a Monte-Carlo code that tracks hydrogen atoms as they pass from interstellar space through the heliosphere. When these charge-exchange with the plasma, momentum and energy source terms are generated that are fed back into the MHD equations that we solve for the plasma. At the same time, some charge-exchange collisions produce energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) that travel large distances through the heliosphere. I work closely with the team from NASA's IBEX satellite which detects ENAs and generates all-sky maps. To relate these 2D maps to the global structure of the heliosphere requires accurate models which we develop. Some of the specific topics I study are:

  • Global heliospheric modeling,
  • ENA flux from the outer heliosphere and interstellar medium,
  • The interaction of atoms heavier than hydrogen with the heliosphere,
  • The dynamics of pickup ions and the corresponding ENAs these generated,
  • The dynamics of interstellar dust inside the heliosphere.


Comparison between IBEX spacecraft data (left) of the unexpected “ribbon” of ENAs, plotted so as to highlight its circularity. Middle and right show simulated ENA maps for two different interstellar magnetic field strengths, suggesting that the field strength is likely less than 4 μG (see paper 1).

ena spectra

ENA spectra computed by graduate student Zirnstein on the basis of assuming a particular breakdown for different populations of pick-up ions, assuming that the total energy and density add up to the MHD-neutral simulation results (see paper 2).


Current graduate students


Eric Zirnstein

Ph.D. expected 2014

Dissertation: "Simulating Hydrogen Flux Measurements for the IBEX Mission".


Anthony DeStefano

Ph.D. expected 2018

Dissertation: "The Interaction of Heavy Interstellar Atoms with the Heliosphere"


Past graduate students


Akito Kawamura

M.S. 2012

Dissertation: "Three Dimensional Test Particle Simulation of Interstellar Oxygen Interacting with the Heliosphere and Analyses for the IBEX Mission".


Joshua Bonner

M.S. 2013

Dissertation: "Detection of Personnel and Small Arms Fire Using Pulse Radar"


Selected recent publications (student authors underlined)

  1. Heerikhuisen, J., Zirnstein, E. J., Funsten, H. O., Pogorelov, N. V., and Zank, G. P., The effect of new interstellar parameters on the heliosphere and ENAs from the interstellar boundary, Astrophysical Journal, in press (2014).
  2. Zirnstein, E. J., Heerikhuisen, J., Zank, G. P., Pogorelov, N. V., McComas, D. J., and Desai, M. I., Charge-exchange coupling between pickup ions across the heliopause and its effect on energetic neutral hydrogen flux, Astrophysical Journal, in press (2014).
  3. Desai, M. I., Allegrini, F. A., Bzowski, M., Dayeh, M. A., Funsten, H. O., Fuselier, S. A., Heerikhuisen, J., Kubiak, M. A., McComas, D. J., Pogorelov, N. V., Schwadron, N. A., Sokol, J. M., Zank, G. P., and Zirnstein, E. J., Energetic neutral atoms measured by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX): Evidence for multiple heliosheath populations, Astrophysical Journal, 780, 11 (2014).
  4. Zirnstein, E. J., Heerikhuisen, J., McComas, D. J., and Schwadron, N. A., Simulating the Compton-Getting effect for hydrogen flux measurements: Implications for IBEX-Hi and -Lo observations, Astrophysical Journal, 778, 112 (2013).
  5. Funsten, H. O., DeMajistre, R., Frisch, P. C., Heerikhuisen, J., Higdon, D. M., Janzen, P., Larson, B. A., Livadiotis, G., McComas, D. J., Moebius, E., Reese, C. S., Reisenfeld, D. B., Schwadron, N. A., and Zirnstein, E. J., Circularity of the IBEX ribbon of enhanced energetic neutral atom (ENA) flux, Astrophysical Journal, 776, 30 (2013).
  6. Fayock, B., Zank, G. P., and Heerikhuisen, J., Comparison of Pioneer 10, Voyager 1, and Voyager 2 ultraviolet observations with anti-solar Lyman-alpha backscatter simulations, Astrophysical Journal Letters, 775, L4 (2013).
  7. Zank, G. P., Heerikhuisen, J., Wood, B. E., Pogorelov, N. V., Zirnstein, E. J., and McComas, D. J., Heliospheric structure: the bow wave and the hydrogen wall, Astrophysical Journal, 763, 20 (2013).
  8. McComas, D. J., Alexashov, D. B., Bzowski, M., Fahr, H., Heerikhuisen, J., Izmodenov, V. V., Lee, M. A., Moebius, E., Pogorelov, N. V., Schwadron, N. A., and Zank, G. P., The heliosphere’s interstellar interaction: no bow shock, Science, 336, 1291 (2012).
  9. Slavin, J. D., Frisch, P. C., Mueller, H.-R., Heerikhuisen, J., Pogorelov, N. V., Reach, W. T., and Zank, G. P., Trajectories and distribution of interstellar dust grains in the heliosphere, Astrophysical Journal, 760, 46 (2012).
  10. Pogorelov, N. V., Heerikhuisen, J., Zank, G. P., Borovikov, S. N., Frisch, P. C., and McComas, D. J., Interstellar Boundary Explorer measurements and magnetic field in the vicinity of the heliopause, Astrophysical Journal, 742, 104 (2011).
  11. Heerikhuisen, J., and Pogorelov, N. V., An estimate of the nearby interstellar magnetic field using neutral atoms, Astrophysical Journal, 738, 29 (2011).
  12. Heerikhuisen, J., Pogorelov, N. V., Zank, G. P., Crew, G. B., Frisch, P. C., Funsten, H. O., Janzen, P. H., McComas, D. J., Reisenfeld, D. B., and Schwadron, N. A., Pick-up ions in the outer heliosheath: A possible mechanism for the Interstellar Boundary EXplorer ribbon”, Astrophysical Journal Letters, 708, L126 (2010).
  13. Zank, G. P., Heerikhuisen, J., Pogorelov, N. V., Burrows, R., and McComas, D. J., Microstructure of the heliospheric termination shock: Implications for energetic neutral atom observations, Astrophysical Journal, 708, 1092 (2010).
  14. McComas, D. J., Allegrini, F., Bochsler, P., Bzowski, M., Christian, E. R., Crew, G. B., DeMajistre, R., Fahr, H., Fichtner, H., Frisch, P. C., Funsten, H. O., Fuselier, S. A., Gloeckler, G., Gruntman, M., Heerikhuisen, J., Izmodenov, V., Janzen, P., Knappenberger, P., Krimigis, S., Kucharek, H., Lee, M., Livadiotis, G., Livi, S., MacDowall, R. J., Mitchell, D., Möbius, E., Moore, T., Pogorelov, N. V., Reisenfeld, D., Roelof, E., Saul, L., Schwadron, N. A., Valek, P. W., Vanderspek, R., Wurz, P. and Zank, G. P. , Global observations of the interstellar interaction from the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), Science, 326, 959 (2009).
  15. Schwadron, N. A., Bzowski, M., Crew, G. B., Gruntman, M., Fahr, H., Fichtner, H., Frisch, P. C., Funsten, H. O., Fuselier, S., Heerikhuisen, J., Izmodenov, V., Kucharek, H., Lee, M., Livadiotis, G., McComas, D. J., Moebius, E., Moore, T., Mukherjee, J., Pogorelov, N. V., Prested, C., Reisenfeld, D., Roelof, E. and Zank, G. P. , Comparison of Interstellar Boundary Explorer observations with 3D global heliospheric models, Science, 326, 966 (2009).
  16. Heerikhuisen, J., Pogorelov, N. V., Florinski, V., Zank, G.P., and le Roux, J. A., The effects of a kappa-distribution in the heliosheath on the global heliosphere and ENA flux at 1 AU, Astrophysical Journal, 682, 679 (2008).


Recent grants and contracts

  1. Global modeling of ENA fluxes in the heliosphere (NASA NNH08ZDA001N-HGI) - $418,075
  2. Tracking energetic neutral atoms from the inner heliosphere back to the source (NASA NESSF11) - $90,000
  3. Grassroots effort to diversify solar and heliospheric physics (NSF GEO-LSAMP) - $40,001
  4. REU site: solar and heliospheric physics at UAHuntsville and MSFC (NSF Solar Terrestrial) - $353,356