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Why the Thirty Meter Telescope May Relocate From Hawaii to Another Continent

Nov 04, 2016 08:30 AM EDT

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), one of the world's biggest telescope, may soon move from Hawaii to Spain as it faces opposition from indigenous Hawaiian groups, saying that its proposed site is sacred.

An official press release from TMT's news center says that in a meeting last week, the TMT International Observatory Board of Governors discussed the plans on building the TMT in Hawaii and the possibility of considering other alternative relocation 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.

The TMT is a $1.4 billion project that aims to build a telescope that will experts to study and observe atmospheres of exoplanets. The TIO Board chose Mauna Kea, Hawaii as its possible build site due to the area's ideal environmental conditions. Mauna Kea has cloud-free Pacific skies, low atmospheric water vapor, and other conditions that fits well for astronomical observations, BBC reports.

However, the project faces the opposition of indigenous groups in Mauna Kea as the natives consider it as a higly sacred site with a special connection with religious deities.

To express their opposition on the construction, protesters blocked access roads on April 25 when the construction of the TMT was scheduled to kick off. This resulted to arrests as well as court complaints from protestors.

"Maunakea continues to be the preferred choice for the location of the Thirty Meter Telescope, and the TIO Board will continue intensive efforts to gain approval for TMT in Hawaii. TIO is very grateful to all of our supporters and friends throughout Hawaii, and we deeply appreciate their continued support," said Yang.

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