By: Paul Drewes
(KHNL) - Long before Mauna Kea became recognized as a world class place for astronomy, the shield volcano played an important part in Hawaiian history.
Now, as the future of this mountain is shaped, they are not only looking at the stars but also trying to stay grounded to the land itself.
Majestic Mauna Kea towers over Hawaii Island.
From atop this massive mountain, the view below is incredible. And the view skyward is even better. "There is no where on earth where you can do astronomy as good as Mauna Kea." says Rolf-Peter Kudritzki with the Institute for Astronomy.
Because of Mauna Kea's isolated peak in the pacific, and height above the clouds, it allows for the sharpest images anywhere. A billion dollars worth of observatories take advantage of this ideal location, which is so important to astronomers.
But this highest point in Hawaii, also has a spiritual importance to Hawaiians.
"Mauna kea is the pinnacle of the spiritual existance of the Hawaiian people, its their temple." says William Stormont with the Office of Mauna Kea Management.
For years, debate erupted over development on this dormant volcano. Some Native Hawaiian groups view this modern technology as a desecration to their temple and their ancestors.
Now construction has been halted for all future projects except two.
And the summit of Mauna Kea could be changing by 2010, when the old University of Hawaii Observatory would come down and new one would go in, with a more powerful but more compact telescope.
Below the summit, a new billion dollar telescope could possibly go in, three times as big as the largest one in the world.
But at the same time, while some of these current observatories would come down.
"The goal 20 years from now is to have less telescopes but the best in the world." adds Kudritzki.
But the goal for the future also hopes to balance the old ways and the new on Mauna Kea, a mountain that means many things to many people.
"I think there's a way we can take care of lands with astronomy, because of its importance, but at the same time keeping in mind the cultural significance and the natural resources that are there. We can do this." states Stormont.