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The ESA teamed with Nissan to build an off-road astronomy lab

The Dark Sky concept totes a trailer that houses a high-power telescope.
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Nissan

Nissan unveiled its Navara Dark Sky concept vehicle at the Hannover Motor Show this week, and it's a vehicle designed for astronomers. The truck is an enhanced version of the automaker's Navara vehicle and along with including some handy new features, it also has a trailer in tow that carries a powerful PlaneWave telescope. Designed with the European Space Agency, the trailer not only houses the telescope but has a number of features that protect the telescope and help researchers collect and transmit data.

The trailer boasts a refrigerated interior that helps stabilize the telescope and battery packs can power a WiFi hotspot, a laptop station and a UHF transmitter for data relay. Further, the truck itself makes use of red lighting in order to cut down on light pollution while the ProPilot driver assistance technology takes the trailer into account and helps locate parking that best accommodates the trailer and telescope.

Nissan and ESA use the Gaia mission as an example of how the Dark Sky concept could be used. Researchers are using the Gaia satellite to map our galaxy's stars and scientists often need to do follow-up observations from here on Earth. But those observations need to be done in very dark and remote places, which aren't easy to get to, especially with a high-power telescope in tow. But the Dark Sky concept allows for that remote viewing while transporting the telescope safely even when going off road.

"Telescopes like the one in this trailer are needed in studies of planets and stars in our galaxy, facilitating Earth-based follow-up campaigns enabled by the Gaia data," Fred Jansen, ESA's senior mission manager for Gaia, said in a statement. "It's been an exciting journey so far and has truly demonstrated what can happen when innovation and astronomy meet."

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