Enlarge / On the road, near the summit.

There are presently 10 optical telescopes on top of Mauna Kea. (credit: Eric Berger)
The Big Island of Hawaii has perhaps the best astronomical seeing conditions in the northern hemisphere, and the University of California system and Caltech have a $1.4 billion plan to build the world’s largest telescope there.

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) would open up an unprecedented window into the early history of the universe—and other unknown wonders.

But some native Hawaiians do not want further telescopes built on the sacred summit of Mauna Kea, which at nearly 14,000 feet is the highest point in the chain of Pacific islands.

They have put up fierce opposition to the telescope’s construction alongside other instruments already on the summit and have scored some wins.

For example, after the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources issued a building permit to the TMT institutions, the State Supreme Court invalidated it in 2015 because proper state procedures had not been followed.
Now, the telescope builders have won an important victory. On Wednesday retired judge Riki May Amano, who is overseeing contested-case hearing, issued a ruling that granted the TMT institutions a construction permit.
It included 31 conditions, such as “ensuring that employees attend mandatory cultural and natural resources training,” and a “substantial” but unspecified amount of sublease rent.
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