Russia wants to restart a German black hole-seeking telescope that went into space aboard a Russian satellite in 2019. Germany ordered the telescope to be decommissioned in early March in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.
The telescope, called eROSITE and mounted in Russian Spectrum-RG spacecraft scans the sky for sources of X-ray radiation (black holes and neutron stars) and works in conjunction with Russia’s ART-X instrument that searches for supermassive black holes.
Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, vocally supported the invasion, including threatening to withdraw in International Space Station partnership. On Saturday (June 4), Rogozin said on Russian TV that Russia plans to reactivate eROSITA without German permission, according to the German website. german wave (opens in new tab).
Related: Germany shuts down black hole telescope on Russian satellite, halts space cooperation
“I have given instructions to start work on restoring the German telescope’s operation in the Spektr-RG system to work in conjunction with the Russian telescope,” Rogozin said, according to Deutsche Welle. “They – the people who made the decision to turn off the telescope – have no moral right to stop this research for humanity just because their pro-fascist views are close to our enemies.”
Space.com has reached out to 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 criticized the idea, saying that restarting eROSITA without German participation could damage the telescope.
“Our management of eROSITA is not easy and in some ways even risky, because we didn’t create this device and we don’t operate it,” Alexander Sergeev, president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Russian news agency. interfax (opens in new tab) according to a Google translation.
But Rogozin seemed relentless, and in a telegram post (opens in new tab) attributed to him said in response to Sergeev’s statement that “specialists from Roscosmos” will be “able to solve the tasks assigned to them without damaging the control circuit of the German telescope”, according to a Google translation.
“The telescope was turned off not by the Germans, but by Russian experts at the request of Germany,” Rogozin wrote in the unverified post, dated June 6. iron and glass swinging a million and a half miles [900,000 miles] from the earth.”
Ars Technica (opens in new tab) reported on Monday (June 6) that, according to unnamed German officials, restarting the scientific instrument without Germany’s participation “could cause damage to the telescope”.
Legally, the situation looks a little murky. Russia, which launched the Spektr-RG spacecraft, is also registered as its sole owner with the United Nations. registration of spatial objects (opens in new tab)Christopher Johnson, space law consultant at the Secure World Foundation, told Space.com.
“Because it’s the record 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 new tab), a United Nations document that sets out rules for international cooperation in outer space. “Germany still owns eROSITA despite being on a Russian spacecraft, and both parties have an obligation to cooperate and show due respect to the other party, as well as not interfere with the other’s right to explore space and carry out space science. “.
Russia, however, might interpret Germany’s withdrawal from cooperation as just that, an interference with its ability to do science, although Johnson said that argument doesn’t 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 newly discovered black holes and neutron stars.