TMT takes center stage at astronomy conference as talks with Ige planned

Updated: Jan. 6, 2020 at 5:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Officials with the Thirty Meter Telescope are slated to meet with the governor this week to discuss the stalled project.

The scheduled conversation comes as astronomers from around the globe are getting a first look at what the inside of the TMT will look like ― wherever it’s built.

The sneak peek is thanks to a virtual reality presentation at a large conference of astronomers in Honolulu this week.

Staff with the Thirty Meter Telescope say it will be able discover life (if there is any) on other planets.

It’ll be 18 stories high and go two stories underground, according to TMT manager of community affairs Sandra Dawson.

"The telescope structure has just passed a final design review," she said.

At the American Astronomical Society conference at the Hawaii Convention Center, TMT is giving attendees a virtual reality look inside the telescope for the first time.

The structure is designed in Japan while the mirrors are being cast in multiple countries.

"There are 492 mirror blanks. They have to operate as one smooth thing," said Dawson.

The convention comes as the project remains at a standstill. Protesters are no longer blocking the access road to the summit, and Hawaii County says construction won’t start before February.

The kiai, or those who consider themselves protectors of Mauna Kea, say they’ve been given the green light to speak at the astronomy conference on Wednesday morning.

Noe Noe Wong-Wilson says there are no plans to protest the event.

“We’ve said from the very beginning, this isn’t a fight with the astronomy community. It’s about our stand to protect our mauna from a building that’s too large.”

Also at the conference, Imiloa Astronomy Center is holding daily talks about Mauna Kea.

Kalepa Baybayan, its navigator and a TMT supporter, says he's disappointed the project is not moving forward for now.

"I'm disappointed in leadership. I'm not going to hang it on any particular government entity, but I think, I think leadership needs to step up," he said.

TMT says its next payment to the THINK fund is in February. It’s now at $6 million with half a million per year.

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