After a troubled start to the construction of the world’s widest reflecting telescope in Hawaii last year the state’s supreme court has invalidated its work permit.
The court said the Board of Land and Natural Resources should not have allowed construction on the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) to start.
Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said: "Quite simply, the board put the cart before the horse."
Last year protesters delayed the TMT’s opening ceremony over concerns about the "desecration" of holy ground.
In Hawaiian mythology, the volcanic peaks of the island are sacred, with Mauna Kea being one of the most sacrosanct. Hawaiian law allowed only high-ranking tribal chiefs to visit its peak.
The $1.4bn telescope is being built on the 14,000ft summit of Mauna Kea because the absence of air and light pollution improves conditions for observation.
The telescope’s "first light" was due to come in 2022.
TMT officials will now have to go through the permitting process again with the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
An artist concept illustrating the TMT Observatory at the proposed site on Mauna Kea (TMT)
The University of Hawaii (UH) said in a statement: "We continue to believe that Mauna Kea is a precious resource where science and culture can synergistically coexist, now and into the future, and remain strongly in support of the TMT. UH is currently reviewing the court’s decision to determine the best path forward."
A temporary suspension to the permit was granted in November.
You can view the full supreme court opinion here.
Earlier this year Canada pledged US$245m towards the project.
Top Image: An artist’s illustration of the TMT atop the volcanic peak of Mauna Kea in Hawaii (TMT)