Aloha ʻāina

Aloha ʻāina

How scientists' bid to locate a telescope on the dormant Mauna Kea volcano has divided the big island of Hawaiʻi.
Published: May 3, 2022
Collage of telescope in Hawaii from Aloha Aina project

It would be unlike any telescope ever built before.

At 30 meters in diameter, this telescope would be three times as wide as the current largest visible-light telescope in the world, allowing astronomers to see deeper into space at a resolution twelve times sharper than that from the Hubble Space Telescope. These prospects have helped astronomers to attain funds and public support.

But not everyone shares the enthusiasm. Native Hawaiians have been protesting the Thirty Meter Telescope due to astronomers’ plans to build it on Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that is regarded as a sacred place in Native Hawaiian culture.

After years of altercation in court, Hawai’i Gov. David Ige announced that construction of the telescope would begin the week of July 15, 2019. But it never happened.

Protesters, who self-identify as protectors, hindered construction by camping out en masse on Mauna Kea Access Road, preventing the trucks and equipment from reaching the construction site. The telescope would have been built by now had the road been clear, and the narrative is far from over. Native Hawaiians are continuing to resist TMT, as the possibility of its development on Mauna Kea still dwells. To this day, the mountain’s fate is unknown.