Since the Dark Sky concept vehicle and trailer (Figure 2) can drive to hard, off-road locations, it can aid astronomers in a variety of projects, such as the Gaia satellite's mapping of the stars. But the new Dark Sky is really unique.
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".
Unveiled at Hannover Motor Show, the Dark Sky Concept was created to venture off-road to areas of low light pollution - the eponymous "Dark Sky" regions - to stargaze. "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".
The trailer's mechanical roof can be activated once at the desired spot, which will allow the PlaneWave telescope to set its sights to the skies.
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. It also uses red interior lighting to minimise any effects on people's night vision, since red light affects it the least. That telescope zooms in beyond the rings of Saturn, showing distant galaxies, nebulae and supernovae.
Nissan turned the Navara pickup into 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. When docked in place, the battery packs are constantly in charging mode and ready for use when required.
Upon arrival, the Navara's intelligent radars and camera sensors scan the terrain to identify the best location to park and stabilize the trailer, ensuring that the observation mission gets off on solid footing.
Nissan didn't elaborate much on plans for making this concept a production version for astronomers, but said that after the Hannover event it will "donate the telescope to pass on the spirit of exploration and adventure, and to inspire and educate future generations".