Astronomers lament lost observation time, risk to Maunakea telescopes
Hawaii Tribune-Herald, 7-28-19
For nearly two weeks, no staff of the Maunakea Observatories have been able to access the telescopes at the mountain’s summit, save at the discretion of demonstrators occupying Maunakea Access Road.
The lack of access has put the observatories under significant strain.
“Basically, we’ve done zero observations since (July 16),” John O’Meara, chief scientist at W. M. Keck Observatory, said on Friday.
On July 16, the second day of the protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope project, the heads of the 12 observatories at the summit jointly chose to remove all staff at the summit out of concern for their safety. Since then, only a handful of technicians has been allowed up the road.
The telescopes on the summit will not be operated so long as access is blocked by protesters, for fear of a critical system failing without anybody on-site to fix it. While many of the telescopes can be remotely operated, they require personnel to access the site quickly to prevent potential damage to the instruments.
One such failure occurred last week at Gemini Observatory. Associate Director Andrew Adamson said several extremely sensitive detectors relied on a liquid helium cooling circuit to keep them at optimal temperatures...
Full story at https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/07/28/hawaii-news/astronomers-lament-lost-observation-time-risk-to-maunakea-telescopes/
UCSB students respond to Chancellor's role in controversial telescope project
Students at UC Santa Barbara are speaking out as university Chancellor Henry Yang sits on the board of a controversial telescope project in Hawaii.
Thousands of protestors on Hawaii’s Big Island are blocking a road to the top of the state’s tallest mountain in order to prevent the massive Thirty Meter Telescope project from being built on what some call sacred land.
The project has been in development for more than a decade, but some Native Hawaiians believe the project being built atop Mauna Kea would desecrate a sacred space. Protestors are currently blocking construction crews from reaching the building site.
Supporters say the telescope will bring high-paying jobs and a better understanding of the universe.
Yang sits on Thirty Meter Telescope's board, along with two other UC staff members...
Full story at https://www.keyt.com/news/santa-barbara-s-county/ucsb-students-respond-to-chancellor-s-role-in-controversial-telescope-project/1100389252
Letter to Governor:
TMT Not Backing Down, Supporters Unwavering
Big Island Video News, 7-27-19
...TMT supporters have responded by rallying behind the project. A sign waving in Hilo on Thursday drew roughly 100 people.
Laurie Chu, a Ph.D. candidate at the UH Mānoa Institute For Astronomy, said the event was organized in 24 hours.
“We took inspiration from the simultaneously organized Honolulu rally,” Chu said, “and it was the best way to take our stance and make our voices heard on the Big Island, and to encourage others to show their support. Some seemed so thrilled to have an outlet that they drove from as far as Waimea or Kailua-Kona, after hearing about it only hours before the event.”
“Many of us have felt silenced via social media,” Chu said, “afraid to speak up due to some threats and racism so this was a direct response that we have a voice too and that we care about the future Hawaii all of us will live in, as both native and non-native Hawaiians.”
Supporters have also been encouraging others to call key elected officials to ask them to stand behind the project.
Gordon Squires, vice president of external relations for TMT, told Hawaii News Now that, by chance, the regularly scheduled TMT International Observatory board meeting was held this week. The board reaffirmed that Mauna Kea is the preferred site, he said. The alternate site remains in La Palma, on the Canary Islands.
“The vast majority of folks in Hawaii are asking us to stay, we’re committed to do so,” he told Hawaii News Now. “It is urgent. Its important for us to get started as soon as possible.”
TMT also wrote about the situation on its website.
“I think it’s fair to say that what is happening today in Hawaii isn’t just about the construction of TMT on Maunakea,” wrote Christophe Dumas, TMT Observatory Scientist and Head of Operations, in an article published on the TMT website on July 23. “Among those who remain opposed to the project are many who see TMT as an icon for what they believe is the wrong side in the much larger political issue of Hawaiian sovereignty. We respect those who express opposition and understand the pain they feel. However, TMT is a bystander in that conversation, which has been going on for many years. And whether or not TMT is built in Hawaii will not bring closure to it.”
“Although it may not appear this way at the moment given what is being shared and seen in social media, the majority of Native Hawaiians actually support the construction of TMT on Maunakea: An independent poll conducted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in 2018 found that 72 percent of Native Hawaiians (registered voters) support TMT, 23 percent oppose it and 5% were undecided,” Dumas wrote. “Similarly, many Native Hawaiians and others believe that Maunakea is sacred and yet can still be home to astronomy. A statewide poll conducted in 2018 found that 88 percent of Hawaii residents agree there should be a way for science and Hawaiian culture to co-exist on Maunakea.”