Published: Fri, September 21, 2018
Science | By

ESA and Nissan team to build off-road observatory for astronomers

ESA and Nissan team to build off-road observatory for astronomers

Called the Navara Dark Sky concept, it was built in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and recently made its public debut at the 2018 Hannover Motor Show in Germany. The Gaia satellite has been working to map out billions of stars, and ESA team members need to make follow-up observations from the ground.

Nissan has unveiled two new vehicles at the Hannover Motor Show, the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept and Navara N-Guard.

During the ride, the intelligent cruise control and steering assist help maintain a safe distance while keeping the truck and trailer centered in their lane, even through curves. This maintains the distance with the vehicle in front while keeping the auto and rig centered during single-lane driving - even on curves.

The auto gets Nissan's semi-autonomous Propilot system, as well as enhanced blind spot warnings and around view monitors to aid the vehicle when towing, taking into account the additional length of a specially made trailer.

At the heart of the trailer is the ultrahigh-power PlaneWave telescope which uses a 40-centimetre (primary) mirror to focus on the night's sky.

Nissan reveals Navara Dark Sky Concept in Germany

"Telescopes like the one in the trailer are needed in studies of planets and stars in our galaxy, allowing Earth-based follow-up campaigns enabled by the Gaia data", explains Dr. Fred Jansen, ESA's senior mission manager for Gaia.

And perhaps there are no more complex needs than those of professional astronomers. It also uses red interior lighting to minimise any effects on people's night vision, since red light affects it the least.

In order for the telescope to achieve thermal stability, the trailer contains a refrigerated astrosphere.

The posh trailer carrying the PlaneWave telescope has a mechanised roof to open it up to the night sky, with battery back-up for both the vehicle and trailer, and built-in WiFi. ESA says this telescope is powerful enough to get detailed views beyond the rings of Saturn. It's essentially a mobile observatory. The Double Cab receives dark blue leather and orange highlights, while the 2.3-litre diesel four-cylinder remains unchanged, still producing 187 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque.

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