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Mobile Observatory (Nissan's Navara ‘Dark Sky' concept vehicle)

An out-of-this-world mobile observatory, developed in collaboration with Nissan Design Europe in London, UK, was unveiled at the 2018 Hannover Motor Show (Germany, 67th IAA 19-27 September), proving that the sky is never the limit. The trailer has been developed to include ‘Intelligent Mobility' technologies, allowing the telescope to be safely transported to remote ‘dark-sky' locations. 1) 2)


Figure 1: Photo of the Nissan Navara ‘Dark Sky' concept vehicle with off-road trailer carrying a high-power observatory-class PlaneWave telescope, developed in collaboration with ESA (image credit: Nissan)

Working closely with ESA, Nissan's trailer module also incorporates a number of other special features including a refrigerated atmosphere, allowing the telescope to remain thermally stable and calibrated at the optimum temperature while in transit.

The vehicle includes an array of smart features that have been developed to meet the needs of commercial vehicle customers, such electric-vehicle battery technology, Wi-Fi, a laptop station and UHF transmission to relay data instantaneously, anywhere in the world.

Ashwani Gupta, senior vice president of Nissan's light commercial vehicle business, said, "We are creating the best solutions for the next frontiers of business, empowering our customers to go anywhere, no matter how complex the commercial needs."


Figure 2: PlaneWave telescope, transported by Nissan's Navara ‘Dark Sky' concept vehicle (image credit: Nissan)

And perhaps there are no more complex needs than those of professional astronomers. As an example, ESA is mapping the stars with unprecedented precision using the Gaia satellite, which has already plotted more than a billion stars. The Dark Sky Concept supports this and similar projects by helping astronomers conduct Earth-based observations of the Universe from hard-to-reach off-road locations.

"The Dark Sky Concept allows observations to take place in very remote places, so-called ‘dark sky' locations, where the best atmospheric conditions for stargazing are found, and avoid light pollution while also transporting telescopes safely and easily," said Fred Jansen, ESA's senior mission manager for Gaia.

"Nissan Design Europe worked alongside astronomers to discuss how we could work together to build the most capable vehicle to support our daily job. We're delighted to see these important factors taken into account."

The design of the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept takes its inspiration from the cosmos as well as ESA's scientists, who are pushing back the boundaries of our knowledge, and ESA's satellites, which are also ruggedly engineered to survive the extreme environments of space, often going where no human-engineered objects have gone before.

"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. It's been an exciting journey so far and has truly demonstrated what can happen when innovation and astronomy meet," added Fred.


1) "Going off-road in the search for dark skies," ESA, 19 September 2018, URL:

2) "Nissan's new ‘Dark Sky' is a mobile observatory," Driving, 20 September 2018, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (