World’s largest telescope in Hawaii

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 09:16

Honolulu: The University of Hawaii Board
of Regents unanimously approved a plan Monday to build the
world`s largest telescope at Mauna Kea`s summit.

The decision clears the way for managers of the
proposed Thirty Meter Telescope to seek a permit from the
state to build the facility on conservation land. TMT managers
aim to begin construction late next year and finish by 2018 if
they can get a permit.

Some Native Hawaiians have opposed the telescope on
the grounds it would defile Mauna Kea`s summit, which they
consider sacred. Environmentalists say the telescope would
harm the rare wekiu bug.

But the board was moved by the potential it offered
for advancing science, providing jobs and helping the economy.
The university`s board must vote on the project because it
owns the lease for the land on which the telescope would be
built.

"I think it would be almost unthinkable not to
approve this project for what it would mean for scientific
research and astronomy, what it would mean for education, and
the answers it may provide to unlock the mysteries of the
universe," said board member Chuck Gee.

Seven members of the public testified in favour of
the telescope at the board`s meeting. No opponents spoke,
though critics have been vocal about their arguments against
the telescope in the past.

Of those who submitted written testimony, 30 were
in favour and 10 were against.

The University of California system, the California
Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian
Universities for Research in Astronomy are spearheading the
project.

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.

A lack of major cities on the Big Island also means
there`s little light pollution to interfere with observations.

Astronomers and observatories in Japan, China and
India have signed on to participate in the Thirty Meter
Telescope.

Jean-Lou Chameau, president of California Institute
of Technology, said the telescope was one of the world`s most
important projects in science over the next 20 years.

PTI




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