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Battle over giant Hawaii telescope

Published 24/06/2015

Hawaii is already home to many giant telescopes
Hawaii is already home to many giant telescopes

A battle is poised to unfold on a Hawaiian mountain where one of the world's largest telescopes is set to be built.

As work resumes on the Thirty Metre Telescope atop the Big Island's Mauna Kea, protesters will try to peacefully stop the construction.

Work was put on hold for two months after the arrests of 31 people blocking access to the site. On Saturday, telescope officials announced construction would start again Wednesday.

Opponents say the 1.4 billion US dollars (£880m) project that will be 18 stories high will desecrate land believed by Native Hawaiians to be the home of deities.

Some say it is time to curb development on the mountain, where 13 other telescopes sit.

Partners for the non-profit building the telescope include India, China, Canada, Japan and the Thirty Metre Telescope Observatory Corporation - which was formed by the University of California and the California Institute of Technology.

Governor David Ige has said Hawaii must do a better job of caring for the mountain, but he said Thirty Metre Telescope has a right to proceed with construction.

Astronomers like the site because its summit is well above the clouds, and it provides a clear view of the sky for 300 days a year. There is also very little air and light pollution.

The protesters will be respectful, said Kahookahi Kanuha, who was among those arrested.

"When the public looks at Mauna Kea, what you see are telescopes. So the assumption is that this mountain belongs to foreign scientists," Mr Kanuha said.

Mauna Kea was selected as the site for the observatory over Chile's Cerro Armazones mountain in 2009.

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