STEM Speaker Series: “The PIXL Investigation on the Mars 2020 Rover Mission: Investigating Ancient Environments and Searching for Signs of Past Life on Mars” by Dr. Joel Hurowitz

Date: 04/30/2019

Time: 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Special Collections Seminar Room, E-2340


The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, or PIXL, is a micro-focus X-ray fluorescence instrument that has been selected as part of the scientific payload of the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission. Mounted on the end of the rover’s arm, PIXL will be used to reveal chemical clues about Mars’ watery past in an effort to determine whether Mars was ever home to microbial life. In this presentation, Dr. Hurowitz will discuss what it takes to mature a scientific instrument from the concept stage to the point that it has been transformed into actual flight hardware, ready to fly to Mars. He will discuss how the data produced by the PIXL instrument can be used to gain a deeper understanding of paleo-environmental conditions on Mars, and the types of chemical “biosignatures” left behind by microbial life that might be visible to PIXL. Finally, Dr. Hurowitz will briefly discuss the Jezero Crater landing site that the Mars 2020 rover mission will visit, and what this site might reveal about Mars geological past.


Dr. Joel Hurowitz is a geochemist and planetary scientist working on the exploration of Mars and the study of modern and ancient Mars analog environments on Earth. Dr. Hurowitz is the deputy principal investigator of one of seven instruments, called PIXL, which was selected for the science payload of the Mars 2020 rover mission. Dr. Hurowitz received his Ph.D. from Stony Brook University working under the supervision of Dr. Scott McLennan. He was a Caltech postdoctoral scholar at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2006–2007 working with Dr. Albert Yen. From 2007 to 2013, Dr. Hurowitz was a research scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In 2013, he joined the faculty of the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University where he is an assistant professor.


Bookings are closed for this event.

Clara Tran

Clara Tran

Head, Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University Libraries
Clara is the member of the Library STEM Team.
Clara Tran
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