Hawaiian Supreme Court approves construction of world’s biggest telescope

Despite objections from indigenous people, Hawaii’s Supreme Court has now allowed construction of the world’s largest telescope to continue on the top of a volcano.

Construction of the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) originally began in October 2014 amid opposition from protesters.

Ancient Hawaiian law allowed only high-ranking tribal chiefs to visit the peak of Mauna Kea. The $1.4bn telescope is being built at 14,000ft on the volcano because the absence of air and light pollution improves observation.

Hawaii’s supreme court invalidated the project’s work permit in December 2015, saying that construction should not have begun.

Now the court has said work can begin "upon careful consideration of the written submissions, the applicable law, and the oral arguments".

Court documents state, via WBUR:

"Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners believe that Mauna Kea, as a sacred manifestation of their ancestry, should be honoured in its natural state and is desecrated by development of astronomy facilities near its summit.

"Various measures are being taken to reduce the impact of the TMT, and that Mauna Kea can also be honoured through the advancement of scientific knowledge that TMT would provide."

Since its inception in the 1990s the project has faced criticism from Hawaiians who are concerned about its environmental and cultural impact.

Those behind the TMT say they will "move forward with fulfilling the numerous conditions and requirements of the state CDUP prior to the start of any construction".

The telescope’s "first light" was due to come in 2022 before the legal proceedings. Website Physicsworld reports that construction on TMT could be completed by 2023.

Images courtesy of TMT

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