Russia wants to restart a German black hole search telescope that went into space aboard a Russian satellite in 2019. Germany ordered the telescope mothballed in early March in response to the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia in February.
The telescope, called eROSITA and mounted on Russian Spectrum-RG spaceship, scans the sky for sources of X-rays (black holes and neutron stars) and works in tandem with the Russian ART-X instrument which searches for supermassive black holes.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, strongly supported the invasion, including threatening to withdraw from international space station Partnership. On Saturday, June 4, Rogozin told Russian television that Russia planned to reactivate eROSITA without German permission, according to the German website. german wave (opens in a new tab).
Related: Germany shuts down black hole telescope on Russian satellite, halts space cooperation
“I gave instructions to start work on restoring the functioning of the German telescope in the Spektr-RG system so that it works with the Russian telescope,” Rogozin said, according to Deutsche Welle. “They – the people who made the decision to shut down the telescope – do not have the moral right to stop this search for humanity just because their pro-fascist views are close to our enemies.”
Space.com contacted the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, which operates eROSITA, but the institute declined to comment on the situation.
However, Russian scientists involved in the cooperation reportedly criticized the idea, saying restarting eROSITA without German participation could damage the telescope.
“Our management of eROSITA is not easy and in some ways even risky, because we did not create this device and we did not operate it,” Alexander Sergeev told Russian news agency. , President of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Interfax (opens in a new tab) according to a Google translation.
But Rogozin did not seem discouraged, and in a telegram post (opens in a new tab) assigned to him said in response to Sergeev’s statement that “Roscosmos specialists” will be “able to solve the tasks assigned to them without damaging the control loop of the German telescope”, according to a Google translation.
“The telescope was turned off not by the Germans, but by Russian specialists at the request of Germany,” Rogozin wrote in the unverified post, dated June 6. “Russian astronomers need a working observatory, not a piece of iron and glass hanging a million and a half miles away [900,000 miles] From the ground.”
Ars-Technica (opens in a new tab) reported Monday, June 6 that, according to unnamed German officials, restarting the scientific instrument without German participation “could damage the telescope.”
Legally, the situation seems a bit murky. Russia, which launched the Spektr-RG spacecraft, is also registered as its sole owner at the United Nations space object register (opens in a new tab)Christopher Johnson, space law adviser at the Secure World Foundation, told Space.com.
“Being the registration state and the launch state, Russia’s control over the object is quite strong,” Johnson told Space.com, referring to the Outer Space Treaty (opens in a new tab), a United Nations document that sets the rules for international cooperation in outer space. “Germany still owns eROSITA, although it is on a Russian spacecraft, and both parties are required to cooperate and show respect to the other party, as well as not to interfere with the right of the other to explore space and perform space science.”
Russia, however, could interpret Germany’s withdrawal from cooperation as exactly that, interference with their ability to do science, although Johnson said that argument does not necessarily justify restarting the instrument. “Russia has no right to explore space with another state’s telescope,” he said.
Things were going well for eROSITA before the invasion of Ukraine. The telescope, which observes the universe in X-rays, released its first batch of data to the scientific community in July 2021, revealing more than 3 million black holes discovered and neutron stars.