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Man arrested on suspicion of vandalizing a Mauna Kea telescope


    A webcamera image from the Very Long Baseline Array radio telescope shows a police car and a red truck in front of the telescope.

Hawaii County police arrested a 30-year-old Kailua-Kona man on suspicion of criminal property damage at one of the telescope facilities on Mauna Kea.

Officers responded to a report of a traffic accident at 9:30 a.m. today involving a disorderly man, police spokeswoman Chris Loos said.

The man was alone when he allegedly drove a vehicle onto the Mauna Kea station of the Very Long Baseline Array, damaging the installation’s fence, building and official vehicles, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory said in a news release, adding the station’s two employees were uninjured.

“Initial reports indicate that the radio-telescope antenna is undamaged,” the observatory said.

Police arrested the man on suspicion of criminal property damage.

He is being held at the South Hilo police cellblock, pending further investigation.

Dan Meisenzahl, a University of Hawaii spokesman, said a 911 call was made at about 9:15 to 9:30 a.m. today.

As soon as Mauna Kea Support Services learned of what happened, staff closed the access to the top of the mountain, and it remains closed, Meisenzahl said.

Mauna Kea Support Services personnel are cooperating with authorities, he said.

Webcamera images showed a police car and a red truck in front of the VLBA telescope early this afternoon.

The VLBA is a continent-wide radio telescope system, with 10 25-meter diameter dish antennas, of which the Mauna Kea antenna is the westernmost. One is located in St. Croix and the other eight are on the U.S. mainland.

The VLBA is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico and is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities Inc.

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  • It is sad if TMT moves outside of Hawaii. There is a tremendous amount of interest around the World on the use of the TMT for deep space exploration, scientific data on the creation of the universe. Aside from science there is the collateral creation of jobs and careers surrounding the TMT. The international investment and spend in TMT is significant. The UH School of Astronomy would also bring in visiting faculty and students who want to pursue a career in same. This would extend to brining in visitors who are interested in Astronomy. An acquaintance left Hawaii to go back to Chile when her fiancé opted to return Chile and pursue his education in Astronomy. Chile, etc. will be more than happen to reap the benefits of having the TMT built in their country…sad.

    • HORSE-PUCKEY! We have far more affective telescopes presently on “Outer-Space-Satellites”. It’s a “LAND-GRAB”! Just the same as BLM and DLNR are moving on Water and other Lands and Natural Resources in Hawaii. Wake-UP!

      • There’s a HUGE universe out there, and just because we have some telescopes on “Outer-Space-Satellites,” they can’t be aimed everywhere. With a finite number of telescopes available, that means there is a lot of sharing going on with other countries, businesses, schools, etc. Atop Mauna Kea is an ideal location for the planned telescope, and Hawaii’s economy and education facilities would benefit from the construction/completion, also. There are NOT enough telescopes available to serve everyone’s purpose. “Land-Grab?,” in what way? They are currently dismantling a few of the older telescopes, and the new telescope would only take up 5 acres of that barren wasteland of a mountainside. There are hundreds of thousands of more acres untouched. Not much of a land grab.

  • Whether this guy is one of the TMT protesters or not, the State’s abysmally slow and ineffective response to the TMT protesters encouraged this kind of acting out, by showing everybody there really is no adverse consequence to obstructing construction workers and equipment and vandalizing the road to the Mauna Kea summit and its environs. Only in Hawaii could this sort of infantile, illegal behavior end up being rewarded by the State with TMT ultimately being put on hold. This current vandalism is a direct consequence of the State mismanaging an illegal hijacking, masked with the veneer of victimized cultural practitioners beating their chests and weeping tears of self pity.

    • Ransom is more appropriate. The more knowledge is advanced the more the disadvantage fall behind. Thus their logic is to impede further construction by claiming the lands/mountain are sacred. The term sacred is used indiscriminately whenever it suits their purpose. For some reason, it is the protesters’ belief that they prefer to live as their ancestors did. Who could blame them! After all it was carefree life, none of the hustle and bustle. Just laze around and strum on your string instruments and enjoy life to the fullest. Modern life just detracts from their garden of eden life-style. With poverty widespread and homelessness on the rise it’s scary place. Am I next! Progress begets only heartaches?

      • Most Hawaiians say the protesters were not accurate about the sacredness. Unfortunately, Hawaiians came out too late to save the project. But then few of the protesters were even Hawaiian

  • If beloved Hawaiian Royalty were alive today – as intelligent, noble, dignified, filled with Royal Grace, Aloha, Pono as they very likely were – I really think they would be embarrassed, saddened, ashamed, alarmed, disbelieving upon seeing the abrasive, confrontational behavior of some people nowadays who claim to share in their beloved Hawaiian cultural heritage…

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