The Primordial Inflation Explorer (PIXIE)

Alan Kogut, David T. Chuss, Jessie Dotson, Eli Dwek, Dale J. Fixsen, Mark Halpern, Gary F. Hinshaw, Stephan Meyer, S. H. Moseley, Michael D. Seiffert, David N. Spergel, Edward J. Wollack

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

20 Scopus citations


The Primordial Inflation Explorer is an Explorer-class mission to measure the gravity-wave signature of primordial inflation through its distinctive imprint on the linear polarization of the cosmic microwave background. PIXIE uses an innovative optical design to achieve background-limited sensitivity in 400 spectral channels spanning 2.5 decades in frequency from 30 GHz to 6 THz (1 cm to 50 micron wavelength). Multi-moded non-imaging optics feed a polarizing Fourier Transform Spectrometer to produce a set of interference fringes, proportional to the difference spectrum between orthogonal linear polarizations from the two input beams. Multiple levels of symmetry and signal modulation combine to reduce the instrumental signature and confusion from unpolarized sources to negligible levels. PIXIE will map the full sky in Stokes I, Q, and U parameters with angular resolution 2.6 deg and sensitivity 0.2 μK per 1 deg square pixel. The principal science goal is the detection and characterization of linear polarization from an inflationary epoch in the early universe, with tensor-to-scalar ratio r < 10-3 at 5 standard deviations. In addition, PIXIE will measure the absolute frequency spectrum to constrain physical processes ranging from inflation to the nature of the first stars to the physical conditions within the interstellar medium of the Galaxy. We describe the PIXIE instrument and mission architecture with an emphasis on the expected level of systematic error suppression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2014
Subtitle of host publicationOptical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave
EditorsJacobus M. Oschmann, Mark Clampin, Howard A. MacEwen, Giovanni G. Fazio
ISBN (Electronic)9780819496119
StatePublished - 2014
EventSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2014: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave - Montreal, Canada
Duration: Jun 22 2014Jun 27 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherSpace Telescopes and Instrumentation 2014: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter Wave

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Blackbody
  • Cosmic microwave background
  • Fourier transform spectrometer
  • Polarization
  • Spectral distortion


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