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Hawaiian Officials Okay Plans To Build 30-Meter, $1.3 Billion Telescope Atop Mauna Kea

Apr 13, 2013 01:45 PM EDT

The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources gave the green light for the $1.3 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) to be built atop the Big Island's Mauna Kea, according to Pacific Business News.

The decision came after the telescope's main sponsor, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, provided what the board said was satisfactory answers to all eight criteria that, under the state's laws, must be appeased in order to allow construction on conservation land.

In the board's decision, it stated that the telescope would be "strongly beneficial" to the public in addition to bringing an estimated 140 full-time jobs upon completion.

"It's for the entire state," said Jerry Chang, the university's director of relations and a former state representative. "It's a billion-dollar project. It's going to affect businesses, bring in a lot of grant money, researchers and astronomers."

The decision does not come without stipulations, however.

Besides requiring that all future TMT employees undergo cultural and natural resources training, the board said the sublease rent for the telescope would be "substantial" and that it would be required to pay $1 million a year for a "community benefits package" to be distributed by the Hawaii Island New Knowledge Fund in the form of scholarships and grants, among other things.

Once completed, the TMT will boast a light collection area 144 times larger than that of the Hubble telescope as well as an improvement in spatial resolution at near-infrared and longer wavelengths by as much as a factor of 10.

TMT is a collaboration of the California Institute of Technology, University of California, the Association of Canadian University for Research in Astronomy, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, a consortium of Chinese institutions led by the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and institutions in India supported by the Department of Science and Technology of India. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

In all, those overseeing the project estimate it will take eight years to complete the telescope.

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