The world’s largest optical telescope in the world projected, designed in Canada, has got a green signal from the University of Hawaii. This week the university approved a plan to lease the land of 5-acre for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii, the largest of the eight Hawaiian Islands.
The university’s Board of Regents’ vote was a near-unanimous 15-1. The only opposing vote came from the board’s student representative, Jeffrey Acido.
The University granted lease for summit land and it already hosts around 12 telescopes.
The construction of the $1.3-billion telescope is expected to start by this year end. Its operation will start in 2021.
The project, started as a multiparty endeavor by the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy. Since then they have received support from institutions and observatories in China, India and Japan.
The telescope will be utilized to observe planets that orbit stars outside our own galaxy and would facilitate astronomers to watch new planets and stars being formed. It will also enable scientists see some 13 billion light years away for a glimpse into the early years of the universe.
The segmented primary mirror of the telescope will be 30 meters in diameter, which is three times the size of the current largest optical telescope called the Gran Telescopio Canarias located on Canary Islands, Spain.
TMT was designed by Dynamic Structures, Ltd., a Canadian company based in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, and will also be in charge of construction.
The device is planned to be made in Canada and then later moved to Mauna Kea when the site is ready.
The unfavorable condition for the telescope is focused mainly on the protection and conservation of sacred native Hawaiian homeland. Environmentalists also opposed the development of TMT saying TMT will harm the wekiu bug, a rare insect that can withstand the freezing temperatures at the top of the mountain.
Hawaii, and specifically Mauna Kea, will certainly profit from the lease arrangement. The telescope will pay over $1 million a year for use of the land when the telescope is fully functional; University of Hawaii at Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney told the board.
80 percent will be distributed to the Office Mauna Kea Management, which preserves the natural, cultural and recreational resources of the mountain while providing a centre for astronomy, research and education. The remaining 20 percent will go to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
TMT won’t be holding the title for the world’s largest telescope for long. A group of European nations plans to build the European Extremely Large Telescope, which will have a mirror having diameter of 42 meters.
The opposition confronted the permit with an appeal to the Third Circuit Court in Hilo. They want to force the state land board to uphold its public trust duties to protect natural and cultural resources involved in traditional Hawaiian practices.