Astronomers announced June 24th that construction on the giant Thirty Metre Telescope will resume despite opposition from several native Hawaiian groups that claim it is being built on sacred land. Construction on the telescope began on October 7, 2014 much to the disapproval of natives and was halted on April 7, 2015 because of protests.
The Thirty Metre Telescope will be the largest single telescope ever constructed and will allow astronomers see 14 billion years into the past, to the time when the universe was just beginning. With this telescope, scientists will get a view of the first galaxies, stars and black holes. It will also allow them to understand what dark matter is and possibly answer more questions about how the universe began.
Seven years of environmental surveys, public hearings and court preceding were done before construction was begun. The non-profit organization working on the telescope halted construction after natives were arrested for blocking roads up to the build location.
It seems the location is significant to both scientists and Hawaiian natives. Scientists want to build the telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea because its high elevation reduces atmospheric interference. But according to native groups, the land is sacred. It is the burial location of their ancestors and the home of their god. The highest points on the Hawaiian Islands are all sacred to native groups.
Protesters say they don’t oppose the construction of the telescope, just the location where it is being built. When construction resumes, they plan to continue protesting and are prepared to face arrests.
Mauna Kea is an ideal location for the construction of the Thirty Metre Telescope but it is at a very high elevation and away from light pollution that would negative effect its use.
Mauna Kea is already home to several other telescopes and the land is owned by the University of Hawaii.
Henry Yang, chairman of the TMT International Observatory Board said the team will work with native Hawaiians to preserve as much of the sacred grounds as possible and allow them to continue their spiritual practices.
If all goes according to plan, the telescope will be finished by 2024.