Nissan designers in the UK have developed an ‘out-of-this-world’ Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept which functions as a mobile astronomy lab. Developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), the concept vehicle features a world-leading, observatory-class telescope on a custom-built off-road trailer.

As the latest embodiment of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the vehicle comes with ProPILOT driver assistance technology, which has been upgraded to make it the most capable pickup for safe and convenient towing.

Nissan’s concept Navara is in support of an ESA program which is mapping the stars with unprecedented precision using the Gaia satellite that has already observed more than a billion stars. The Navara Dark Sky Concept can help astronomers conduct follow-up observations of the universe from hard-to-reach, so-called ‘dark sky’ locations away from the night glow of urban areas, which decreases visibility. Since red light affects human night vision least, both the vehicle and trailer exclusively use red lighting to avoid visual disruption during observations.

The design of the Navara Dark Sky Concept takes its inspiration from the cosmos. The dark exterior colour scheme features nebula motifs using parametric patterning, and the interior brings together the deep hues of the night sky with the orange shades of a setting sun. Reflective orange piping on the seats also provides visibility inside the vehicle, negating the need for white lights that would disrupt the astronomer’s night vision.

“The Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept is a brilliant example of Nissan serving as an authentic partner, empowering our customers to go anywhere,” said Ashwani Gupta, Senior Vice-President of Nissan’s light commercial vehicle business. “Through Nissan Intelligent Mobility and ProPILOT, we are creating the best solutions for the next frontiers of business, no matter how complex the commercial need.”

Besides the smart features which are available in the Navara in showrooms around the world – such the Intelligent Around View Monitor system and Blind Spot Warning – the Navara Dark Sky Concept also has Nissan’s portable battery packs. These energy packs utilize electric vehicle technology from the LEAF EV to ensure there is auxiliary power supply, no matter how remote the location

Additional smart features include wifi, a laptop station and UHF transmission to relay data instantaneously, anywhere in the world. Eight combined radar units, on each corner of the vehicle and trailer, update the driver on the vehicle’s surroundings through the NissanConnect infotainment touchscreen on the dashboard.

At the heart of the trailer is the ultra high-power PlaneWave telescope. The upgraded Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies allow the telescope to be transported to wild, remote dark-sky locations safely.

Working closely with ESA, the trailer module also incorporates a special refrigerated atmosphere, allowing the telescope to remain stable and calibrated at the optimum temperature in transit to any location. Once at the desired, often hard-to-reach destination, the trailer module’s mechanized roof can be opened to focus the telescope on the night sky. Using a 40-cm (primary) mirror, it has the ability to give detailed views beyond the rings of Saturn, to distant galaxies, nebulae and supernovas.

“The Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept allows observations to take place in very remote places, avoiding light pollution, while also transporting telescopes safely and easily,” said Dr. Fred Jansen, ESA’s senior mission manager for Gaia. “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.”

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[Chips Yap]

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