One of the biggest well-known telescope projects might be forced to move its location from Mauna Kea in the US state of Hawaii to Canary Island, Spain. The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) ran into opposition with indigenous groups which consider its proposed area sacred.
Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is a proposed astronomical observatory with an extremely large telescope (ELT) that has become the source of controversy over its planned location on Mauna Kea in the US state of Hawaii.
The construction work had to be postponed due to revocation of the permit by orders of the Supreme Court of Hawaii. Opposition to the construction of observatories atop Mauna Kea has existed for decades. To many Native Hawaiians, Mauna Kea is considered the most sacred of all mountains on the island, with a special connection to their religion's deities. So continued development is considered a desecration. But others who are against the project cite environmental and conservation concerns, as reported by BBC.
The construction began last April 2015. But in In December 2015, the Hawaii State Supreme Court rescinded a 2011 construction permit for the next-generation telescope. It contemplated that the permit had been issued before opponents got the chance to state their case. "Quite simply, the board put the cart before the horse when it issued the permit," said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. This meant the TMT project would have to ask a new permit if they want to continue with construction on Mauna Kea telescope.
According to The Indian Express, the TMT International Observatory Board of Governors met last week to discuss the progress of TMT in Hawaii and to consider potential alternate sites.
"The TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board of Governors has explored a number of alternative sites for TMT. Every site we considered would enable TMT's core science programs," said Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT International Observatory Board.
"After careful deliberation, the Board of Governors has identified Observatorio del Roque de Los Muchachos (ORM) on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain as the primary alternative to Hawaii," he added.
However, a move from the Pacific to the Atlantic would result in a major outbreak for the project, which has been in progress for the past 15 years.
The board of the biggest telescope said that they would do their best and continue its efforts to gain approval for construction on Hawaii. But if those efforts continue to meet opposition, it's credible that astronomers will have to invoke their Plan B.