PIXL: Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry

Abigail C. Allwood*, Lawrence A. Wade, Marc C. Foote, William Timothy Elam, Joel A. Hurowitz, Steven Battel, Douglas E. Dawson, Robert W. Denise, Eric M. Ek, Martin S. Gilbert, Matthew E. King, Carl Christian Liebe, Todd Parker, David A. K. Pedersen, David P. Randall, Robert F. Sharrow, Michael E. Sondheim, George Allen, Kenneth Arnett, Mitchell H. AuChristophe Basset, Mathias Benn, John C. Bousman, David Braun, Robert J. Calvet, Benton Clark, Luca Cinquini, Sterling Conaby, Henry A. Conley, Scott Davidoff, Jenna Delaney, Troelz Denver, Ernesto Diaz, Gary B. Doran, Joan Ervin, Michael Evans, David O. Flannery, Ning Gao, Johannes Gross, John Grotzinger, Brett Hannah, Jackson T. Harris, Cathleen M. Harris, Yejun He, Christopher M. Heirwegh, Christina Hernandez, Eric Hertzberg, Robert P. Hodyss, James R. Holden, Christopher Hummel, Matthew A. Jadusingh, John L. Jørgensen, Jonathan H. Kawamura, Amarit Kitiyakara, Kris Kozaczek, James L. Lambert, Peter R. Lawson, Yang Liu, Thomas S. Luchik, Kristen M. Macneal, Soren N. Madsen, Scott M. McLennan, Patrick McNally, Patrick L. Meras, Richard E. Muller, Jamie Napoli, Bret J. Naylor, Peter Nemere, Igor Ponomarev, Raul M. Perez, Napat Pootrakul, Raul A. Romero, Rogelio Rosas, Jared Sachs, Rembrandt T. Schaefer, Michael E. Schein, Timothy P. Setterfield, Vritika Singh, Eugenie Song, Mary M. Soria, Paul C. Stek, Nicholas R. Tallarida, David R. Thompson, Michael M. Tice, Lars Timmermann, Violet Torossian, Allan Treiman, Shihchuan Tsai, Kyle Uckert, Juan Villalvazo, Mandy Wang, Daniel W. Wilson, Shana C. Worel, Payam Zamani, Mike Zappe, Fang Zhong, Richard Zimmerman

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) is a micro-focus X-ray fluorescence spectrometer mounted on the robotic arm of NASA’s Perseverance rover. PIXL will acquire high spatial resolution observations of rock and soil chemistry, rapidly analyzing the elemental chemistry of a target surface. In 10 seconds, PIXL can use its powerful 120 μm-diameter X-ray beam to analyze a single, sand-sized grain with enough sensitivity to detect major and minor rock-forming elements, as well as many trace elements. Over a period of several hours, PIXL can autonomously raster-scan an area of the rock surface and acquire a hyperspectral map comprised of several thousand individual measured points. When correlated to a visual image acquired by PIXL’s camera, these maps reveal the distribution and abundance variations of chemical elements making up the rock, tied accurately to the physical texture and structure of the rock, at a scale comparable to a 10X magnifying geological hand lens. The many thousands of spectra in these postage stamp-sized elemental maps may be analyzed individually or summed together to create a bulk rock analysis, or subsets of spectra may be summed, quantified, analyzed, and compared using PIXLISE data analysis software. This hand lens-scale view of the petrology and geochemistry of materials at the Perseverance landing site will provide a valuable link between the larger, centimeter- to meter-scale observations by Mastcam-Z, RIMFAX and Supercam, and the much smaller (micron-scale) measurements that would be made on returned samples in terrestrial laboratories.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number134
    JournalSpace Science Reviews
    Issue number8
    Number of pages132
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Please note A correction to this article is available:
    Space Sci Rev (2021) 217:28


    • X-ray
    • Petrology
    • Mars
    • Astrobiology


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