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Construction On Controversial Mauna Kea Telescope To Continue Despite Protests

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project, which involves the construction of a telescope in the Mauna Kea in Hawaii, was set to resume on Wednesday, June 24, despite protests from the local community. The state of Hawaii expects that the crew and the people will show respect for one another as the project continues; however, the TMT crew backed down as the people continued to express their strong disagreement to the construction.

After numerous scientific studies, public hearings and court meetings, the University of Hawaii, which manages the area and the non-profit company behind the TMT officially received approval to start their endeavor in 2009. In March 2015, the telescope project began near the peak of the Mauna Kea on the Big Island. Protesters started to express their strong disagreement to the project and caused series of conflicts. The company had to postpone the construction in April, particularly due to the arrest of people, who tried to form a barricade along the road of the summit. On Saturday, June 20, the company officials announced that they will continue on with their telescope project starting Wednesday, June 24.

The TMT project is said to create a possibility for scientists and astronomers to see and study the ancient celestial materials such as stars and galaxies in the universe. The large telescopes will also enable the experts to understand the black holes and the dark matter. Being able to view these cosmic elements after the Big Bang occurred a hundred million years ago is a crucial milestone for scientists; this is because they will be given the chance to investigate the details of the dark energy and possibly predict what the future universe would be like.

The summit of the Mauna Kea is 13,796 feet above the clouds, which enables anyone to have a clear perspective of the sky for about 300 days in a year. According to the native Hawaiians, the Mauna Kea is a sacred place where their revered and sacred ancestors were buried. It is a place where the people go to for sanctuary and it is also the house of God, says Kealoha Pisciotta, a protest organizer. Any high points are considered home of the deities and only high priest officials are permitted to enter the summit, she adds.

Governor David Ige says that while it is the responsibility of Hawaii and its people to take care of the mountains, the construction team has earned the right to proceed with their work.

"The state and Hawaii County are working together to uphold the law and ensure safety on roadways and on Mauna Kea, while allowing the people their right to peacefully and lawfully protest," he said in a statement late Tuesday, June 23.

Photo: Chico Boomba | Flickr

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