Astronomy conference skirts TMT debate

Astronomy conference skirts TMT debate

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The International Astronomical Union will name celestial objects, hold events at schools, and swap scientific knowledge amongst its 2,800 attendees. But it's not taking an official position on the controversy surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope.

"Of course, we want to promote astronomy.  But we also are very respectful of traditions," said IAU deputy general secretary Piero Benvenuti.

The astronomer's assembly doesn't want to offend those who believe Mauna Kea is a sacred site. Neither does it discount the value it sees in the giant telescope.

"The advantage of having such a big mirror is equivalent to the revolution that happened with Galileo, with the first telescope," Benvenuti said.

Those who insist they're protecting Mauna Kea were turned down when they asked to share their viewpoint during the convention.

"In no way are we here standing against astronomy," Lanakila Mangauil said. "Neither are we technically against the TMT.  We are simply against the location. And we want to share with them why we're against the location."

Benvenuti said Hawaii was chosen as the site for the assembly six years ago. And even with the TMT conflict, there were no plans to relocate.

"It took a long time to build up the scientific program.  It would be absolutely impossible to move such an event on a short notice," he said.

The IAU will hold its meetings at the Hawaii Convention Center over the next 11 days. The attendees come from 75 countries. IAU estimates it will generate up to $20 million in tax revenue for the state.

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