Hawaiians have rallied against building the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea.
In a dramatic ruling, the Supreme Court of Hawaii has thrown out the building permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope after anger about the project from Hawaiians.
The court ruled that the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources should not have granted a building permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope before a hearing on the hotly contested issue was held, according to a Discovery News report.
Now, the Board will have to have a contested case hearing if they want to re-issue the permit, and that is certain to be accompanied by lots of drama. The move to build a huge telescope at the top of Mauna Kea, the highest point in the state, was met with a massive uproar from native Hawaiians who don’t like the idea of the huge construction project on what they consider to be sacred lands.
It has led to a massive tug of war between astronomers and Native Hawaiians, with the former wanting the telescope on prime land to peer deep into the universe and advance science, but the latter being concerned that their sacred lands are being trampled upon without concern for how they feel about such projects. In Native Hawaiian culture, the mountain has long been the sacred home of deities and has only been used for religious ceremonies. But the University of Hawaii has managed the land as an astronomical reserve ever since the 1960s, constructing 13 telescopes since then — although none of them would be nearly as big as the Thirty Meter Telescope, which would tower 18 stories into the sky.
The ecological impacts of such a huge construction project are also of concern to environmentalists.
It would certainly be a blow to science if the telescope were to not be approved. This telescope would be the highest and the second largest Extremely Large Telescope in the world should it be constructed, and would provide scientists with a valuable asset to look deep into space and uncover mysteries dating back to the Big Bang.
Henry Yang, the chair of the TMT International Observatory Board of Directors, said this in a statement in response to the ruling: “We thank the Hawaii Supreme Court for the timely ruling and we respect their decision. TMT will follow the process set forth by the state, as we always have. We are assessing our next steps on the way forward. We appreciate and thank the people of Hawaii and our supporters from these last eight-plus years.”