University of Hawaii proposes teaching telescope on mountain

University of Hawaii proposes teaching telescope on mountain
(Source: Hawaii News Now)

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — The University of Hawaii has proposed installing a teaching telescope on the state’s highest mountain and is seeking public input on the project.

The university plans to solicit public comment on the plan for the telescope on Mauna Kea, the site of a months long protest against the proposed construction of a giant telescope, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Saturday.

The university proposed to install its teaching telescope at Halepohaku, a mid-level facility located on the mountain at 9,200 feet (2,804 meters) elevation.

The 28-inch (71-centimeter) telescope is far smaller than the stalled Thirty Meter Telescope project, which opponents said would desecrate land considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians.

Protesters blocked the 6.27-mile (10-kilometer) access road to the summit of Mauna Kea in a demonstration against the project from July through December 2019.

The university launched a website with a form to submit feedback through Oct. 26. The website also provides telescope statistics, plans and renderings of the instrument’s housing and an explanation of why Halepohaku is the preferred site.

The telescope and some observatory components purchased in 2016 cost about $400,000.

Rene Pierre Martin, University of Hawaii Hilo telescope director, said the website is the first step in gauging public reception for the proposal.

“It is our favorite option, and we have support from the Board of Regents for that option. But we still need consultation from the public,” Martin said.

Officials consider Halepohaku the ideal location because the university’s Hoku Kea observatory site at Mauna Kea’s summit is scheduled to be decommissioned, along with two other summit observatories.

Martin said 15 other potential sites were considered, including three in the continental U.S., but Halepohaku’s convenience for researchers, low light pollution and good weather make the site ideal.

The site would include a fiberglass dome with a diameter of 18 feet (5.49 meters) enclosing the telescope and a platform.

The telescope would have a small footprint while the placement at a site already in use minimizes potential harm to archaeological or cultural locations.

“We’ve been very conscious about putting it in places far away from sites for cultural practitioners,” Martin said.

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