Hawaii officials have reportedly signed off on a plan to build one of the world’s largest telescopes on top of a volcano.
What could go wrong?
According to local reports, state land use officials have signed on a plan that would result in the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on top of Mauna Kea. On Friday, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources granted the University of Hawaii at Hilo the request, citing the need for additional research facilities on the island. The board said the university had satisfied eight key criteria and that the state allows for the building of telescopes on conservation land.
The project, which has faced criticism from protesters, will, according to officials, create upwards of 140 full-time jobs and provide the scientific community with one of the most up-to-date research facilities in the world. In addition to creating jobs, the observatory represents a chance for the state to engage in an international project. Under the proposed agreement, the Thirty Meter Telescope would involve parties from a number of countries, including Japan, China, India, and Canada.
In approving the land use agreement, board officials pushed back against concerns brought forth by opponents. Petitioners, including the family of E. Kalani Flores and B. Pua Case, said the observatory would result in unnecessary stress to the local environment which remains a federally protected conservation area.
Once built, the Thirty Meter Telescope will instantly shoot near the top of the list of the most advanced telescopes on Earth. According to astronomers, the telescope will have the ability to observe light and objects from 13 billion years ago. The observatory will also have the ability to observe the early formation of exoplanets and galaxies, providing astronomers with rare insight into the formation of the universe.
The observatory reportedly has nine times the coverage area of its peer and will provide images that are three times as sharp, according to astronomers, and the combination would make the Thirty Meter Telescope one of the powerful optical/infrared telescope on Earth.
Overcoming the zoning requirements is likely the last hurdle faced by university officials. The announcement follows in the wake of a planned partnership between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the awarding of a cooperative agreement between the two bodies.