Science & Technology

Hawaii to begin construction of mega-telescope on July 15

Thirty Meter Telescope got delayed over planned site of construction atop Mauna Kea, a sacred mountain to native Hawaiians — already home to 13 astronomical observatories

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 15 July 2019
Photo: TMT International Observatory __

Hawaii is set to begin construction of the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on July 15, 2019, amid legal challenges and protests, Nature reported.

The project construction got delayed by four-years, over planned site of construction atop Mauna Kea, a sacred mountain to native Hawaiians — already home to 13 astronomical observatories, according to the report.

The State Department of Transportation will, beginning July 15, shut the Mauna Kea Access Road and other roads from where equipments for the TMT project will be transported up the mountain.

Further, as a safety measure hunting units A, K, and G in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve area will also be temporarily closed, the report stated.

“… the day for construction to begin has arrived. At this time our number one priority is everyone’s safety,” David Y Ige, Governor of Hawaii, said in a release on July 10.

“As construction begins, I continue to be committed to engaging with people holding all perspectives on this issue and to making meaningful changes that further contribute to the co-existence of culture and science on Mauna Kea,” he added.

The project was first launched in 2015 and construction was halted as protesters claimed damage to the mountain. In December 2015, TMT’s construction permit was annulled by Hawaii’s Supreme Court and was sent to its Board of Land and Natural Resources. 

However, in October 2018, Hawaii’s top court ruled that observatory’s construction permit is valid, paving the way for work to restart on Mauna Kea.

Again in July, 2019 people opposing the project filed a fresh legal challenge in a lower court in Hawaii. They claimed that the state has not acquired a security bond as financial protection to cover the costs of restoring the site if the project is not completed, the Nature reported.

“We will forever fight the TMT…we are prepared for intense and lengthy struggles but stand firm in kapu aloha — peace and nonviolence,” said another group, the Hawaii Unity and Liberation Institute, on July 10.

The TMT, previously estimated at Rs 140 crores, is one of three planned mega-telescopes that would push astronomy into a new era of ground-based observing. The other two — the Giant Magellan Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope — are both under construction in Chile.

TMT has a 30-metre prime mirror diameter. Compared to the largest currently existing visible-light telescope in the world, TMT will be three times wider and nine times more in area. Its resolution is 12 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

It will help astronomers see deeper into space and observe cosmic objects with unprecedented sensitivity.

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