In DepthAstronomy

Telescope clash deeply rooted in Hawaii's past

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Science  08 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6235, pp. 614-615
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6235.614

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In Hawaii, work on what would be one of the world's largest optical telescopes has been halted by protests by Native Hawaiian groups. They say building the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the slopes of Mauna Kea, on Hawaii's Big Island, would desecrate a sacred site. But the $1.2 billion project, led by an international consortium based in Pasadena, California, has also become embroiled in a long-running dispute over Hawaiian sovereignty. "It comes down to the fact that there is an occupation of Hawaii by the United States," says Anne Keala Kelly, an independent filmmaker in Honolulu. Native groups say state officials had no right to issue permits for the project in March and say that research groups have mismanaged the mountain's summit, which is already home to 13 telescopes. The dispute took a new turn on 30 April, when a state board that advocates for Native Hawaiians voted to rescind its earlier endorsement of the project. But the board rejected calls to oppose construction of the telescope outright, saying it wanted to retain a more neutral position in continuing negotiations over the TMT's fate.

  • * Ilima Loomis is a freelance journalist in Maui, Hawaii.

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