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Telescope project atop Mauna Kea gets approval from state

By Audrey McAvoy / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:32 a.m. HST, Apr 13, 2013

A plan by California and Canadian universities to build the world’s largest telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea received approval Friday from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

The decision clears the way for the group managing the Thirty Meter Telescope project to negotiate a sublease for land with the University of Hawaii.

The telescope would be able to observe planets that orbit stars other than the sun and enable astronomers to watch new planets and stars being formed. It should also help scientists see some 13 billion light-years away for a glimpse into the early years of the universe.

The telescope’s segmented primary mirror, which is nearly 100 feet long, will give it nine times the collecting area of the largest optical telescopes in use today. Its images will also be three times sharper.

Some Native Hawaiian groups had petitioned against the project, arguing it would defile the mountain’s sacred summit.

Native Hawaiian tradition holds that high altitudes are sacred and a gateway to heaven. In the past, only high chiefs and priests were allowed at Mauna Kea’s summit. The mountain is home to one confirmed burial site and perhaps four more.

Environmentalists also petitioned to stop the telescope on the grounds it would harm habitat for the rare wekiu bug.

The board approved the project anyway but imposed two dozen conditions, including a requirement that employees be trained in culture and natural resources.

The University of California system, the California Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy are spearheading the telescope. China, India and Japan have signed on to be partners.

UH is involved because it leases the summit land from the state.

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eleu808 wrote:
WOW! State Board of Land and Natural Resources approves the dynamite and bulldozing of State Conservation land for out of state developers building outdated telescope technology! What next? Hubble telescope takes way better pictures. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has broken the record in the quest to find the farthest supernova of the type used to measure cosmic distances. This eyesore on Mauna Kea conservation land will never compare!
on April 13,2013 | 08:08AM
Kuihao wrote:
Your ignorance of astronomy is breathtaking...
on April 13,2013 | 09:09AM
Kawipoo wrote:
Eleu808 is another example of low IQ individuals who do not understand science.
on April 13,2013 | 04:00PM
eleu808 wrote:
Hawaii politicians are a cheap. UH gets a dollar a year for the use of Mauna Kea today. The promise hush money to the community of 1 million a year is a joke. The dollar is crashing as we speak with the Fed printing 58 billion a month out of thin air. How about a 70% cut on the profit? The existing telescopes charge thousands for use per night. The sale of telescope use is contracted to out of state visitors and Universities.
on April 13,2013 | 10:48PM
eleu808 wrote:
"Hubble played a key role in discovering that a mysterious form of energy called dark energy is acting like a cosmic gas pedal, accelerating the universe's expansion rate. Dark energy shoves galaxies away from each other at ever-increasing speeds and works in opposition to gravity." Hubble's observations of supernovas helped reveal that the mysterious energy is a constant presence in the universe.
on April 13,2013 | 10:37PM
tiki886 wrote:
How can it be an "eye sore" when you can't even see it from any local town or city around the island?
on April 13,2013 | 09:48PM
eleu808 wrote:
You can see the existing telescopes today from Kohala and Kona.
on April 13,2013 | 10:50PM
pursuit2000 wrote:
And Kamuela...
on April 14,2013 | 01:21AM
Keokea4 wrote:
Please! someone tell the public the truth and be fully transparent on how much revenue UH receives on these ongoing Subleases for all these telescopes? How much goes to the State get? No one ever mentions the millions if not billions of revenues that are transacted between UH, the BLNR and the companies building the telescopes on ceded lands!!! It is all a big hush hush secret! Where is OHA? Silent of course! Millions, and billions of dollars over the long run, are raked in by these outside Multi-national or Academic institutions who keep building these telescopes and pay a pittance in leases but charge high rates for use-time on these telescopes. they don't ever give back to the community in significant ways through social and economic programs. These rapacious, greedy companies including UH regents and BLNR don't genuinely care about the Hawaiian culture and people. They are only going through the motion with a "window dressing list" to say they did some education which goes in one ear and out the other. If these entities genuinely cared about the culture they wouldn't keep building horrendous monstrous telescopes on a site that is sacred to Hawaiians. It is contradictory and duplicitous. They are all waha he'e slippery mouthed! Besides desecrating a sacred ancestral site, Native Hawaiians MUST insist on inquiring about and ensuring the millions/billions of $$, especially if Mauna Kea is on ceded lands, are going towards the betterment of Native Hawaiians. How can Bill Aila call himself Hawaiian and "sell out" on his kupuna. Does he have personal, cultural and historical amnesia of being a strong activist fighting to protecting the Native Hawaiian culture and wahi kupuna???? He continues to approve and actively participate in the destruction and desecration of culture, the Aina and wahi kupuna. Look at the fiasco at Kawaiaha'o Church??? Shame on him for commoditizing his kupuna. His kupuna would be very kaumaha at his pono 'ole behavior and thinking.
on April 13,2013 | 09:46AM
jasurace wrote:
I'm not unsynpathetic - I was horrified at the amount of land that got reworked for the SMA. Arguments as to who should control or access the mountain aside, your idea that there are vast sums of loose cash moving around is completely wrong. I guess people see these big sums of money and assume it's all going into someone's bank account. No one is making any profit at all on those things - in fact, they are on such a shoestring that several are closing (CSO, JCMT, UKIRT) due to lack of funds. Not only are they not for-profit, the funding agencies (a mix of government and private donors) don't allow profit taking. Telescopes typically cost of order $50-200M to construct, the telescope in question will come in at several times that. But that means a whole lot of construction jobs on the Big Island. Operations costs typically range from a few million to tens of millions of dollars per year per telescope. That cash is used almost entirely to pay the salaries of all the people on the Big Island who work to support these facilities, and out of their pockets it flows straight into the local economy. Astronomers do not buy time, it is awarded through competitive science proposals. Whether they can propose or not depends on whom they are affiliated with - the national facilities are open to everyone, the private facilities require a given university or consortium to have bought in to cover the operations fees. UH receives 10-15% of the telescope time on each telescope, making UH the wealthiest university in the world in terms of telescope access. But they aren't getting buckets of cash, it's almost entirely "in kind" access. If it were possible to get rich in astronomy, I'd sure like someone to tell me how. Maybe then I wouldn't drive a 22 year-old car.
on April 13,2013 | 02:57PM
eleu808 wrote:
Waste of money. Hubble telescope takes way better pictures. A collection of Hubble Space Telescope images shows distant supernovas, the death explosions of massive stars. The photos show each region before the explosion and also shows the explosions' aftermaths.
on April 13,2013 | 10:53PM
Keokea4 wrote:
Your response is contradictory since you're arguing vast sums of money to build $50-200M for a telescope and the new one will be several times that amount ($400-600M). Tens of millions of operating costs are going employee salaries per year, per telescope. I think that constitutes going into someone's bank account. These tens of millions translates to hundreds of millions over time since most of these telescopes were built in the 1970's 80's and 90's. Big Island people aren't the locals, they are privileged scientists, academics consultants etc. who moved to Hawaii to work in Hawaii. what trickles down from them to the local community is insignificant compared the enormous gains they receive financially, professionally. Interesting UH is only getting access time and no money because they sure could use to lower student tuition and rebuilding campus infrastructure. The losers UH, BLNR and of course Hawaiians!
on April 14,2013 | 01:05PM
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