06 August 2015 News

Mauna Kea and Thirty Meter Telescope: when astronomy causes protests

Thirty Meter Telescope is set to be the biggest astronomical observatory in Hawaii. Not everyone is happy about it.

This summer, there has been tension, protests, and even arrests in Hawaii, with some local residents weary of construction on Mauna Kea, which already hosts a total of thirteen observatories.

The sacred status of Mauna Kea has deep roots – in fact, Mauna Kea is considered the most sacred peak of all in Hawaii. A dormant volcano, it stands at a breathtaking height of 4, 205 metres above sea level – the highest point in the entire state.

Although weather conditions at its summit is perfect for observatories, the ethical dimension of building on Mauna Kea has been the subject of debate for some time.

For many, Thirty Meter Telescope is merely a tipping point.

According to Nature, besides spiritual concerns, environmental issues have motivated the latest protests.

“Our own planet down here is dying,” Lanakila Mangauil, a protest leader who grew up near Mauna Kea, told the magazine.

The full effects of building on Mauna Kea have yet to be fully understood, though there are studies underway to determine the impact.

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