Russians Hijack A German Space Telescope

Image (Credit): Artist’s impression of the spacecraft carrying the eROSITA (highlighted) and ART-XC space telescopes. (Max Planck Institute)

Remember all those sanctions and cancelled projects following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how we hoped scientists would rise above it? Well, the Russians will have none of it. They have decided to switch on Germany’s eROSITA space telescope.

Built by the Max Planck Institute and launched in 2019 together with the Russian ART-XC space telescope, the eROSITA was placed in sleep mode back in February shortly after the Russian invasion. Both the German and Russian telescopes are designed to work in tandem to study Dark Energy.

The main scientific goals of eROSITA are

  • to detect the hot intergalactic medium of 50-100 thousand galaxy clusters and groups and hot gas in filaments between clusters to map out the large scale structure in the Universe for the study of cosmic structure evolution,
  • to detect systematically all obscured accreting Black Holes in nearby galaxies and many (up to 3 Million) new, distant active galactic nuclei, and
  • to study in detail the physics of galactic X-ray source populations, like pre-main sequence stars, supernova remnants and X-ray binaries.

In a recent Gizmodo article, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin stated:

They—the people that made the decision to shut down the telescope—don’t have a moral right to halt this research for humankind just because their pro-fascist views are close to our enemies.

Neither German nor Russian scientists are happy with this political decision. It is likely to have implications for future joint Russian missions.

Whether it is politics or micrometeroids, astronomers have plenty of outside factors messing up well-planned missions.