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Maunakea and the Need to Indigenize Astronomy

Hilding Neilson, , UCS | August 9, 2019, 1:12 pm EDT
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This post is a part of a series on Science For Justice

I am told by Hawaiians that Maunakea is sacred. I am not sure I understand what that means, I am not Hawaiian, I am an outsider.

What I know about Maunakea is really only two things. The first is that Maunakea is one of the best sites for astronomy observing in the world, thanks to its height and the mostly stable weather on the mountain. That is why astronomers have proposed that the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) be built there. With this telescope, we can expect new discoveries about planets orbiting other stars and whether these planets might host life as we understand it. We might learn about the first stars ever born and peer deeper into the Universe’s history than ever before. I am an astronomer and I will benefit from Canada’s participation in the TMT.

The second thing I know is that Maunakea is Hawaiian territory and we, astronomy, do not have consent for TMT on Maunakea. I think this has been clear for more than a decade through court cases and protests, but the idea of consent came to a head on July 18, 2019 when Elders were arrested by police for trying to protect the mountain. This was a violent moment, but not a new moment. Elders have been arrested for protesting the Alton Gas project in Nova Scotia, Trans Mountain pipeline in British Columbia and as we all know, Standing Rock. All of these situations and more are instances where Indigenous peoples were telling settlers/colonizers that they do not have consent. TMT does not have consent to be on Maunakea. I understand this as an Mi’kmaw First Nation person myself and seeing those arrests on Maunakea from thousands of kilometers away was wrong.

I know these two things and both concepts appear to be in conflict. But not to me. TMT does not have consent and that should be the end of the story. As a scientist, Indigenous rights are infinitely more important than whatever research benefit I might obtain from TMT on Maunakea. For me to do otherwise is to do unethical science and to harm Indigenous peoples. I only wish my colleagues could see this.

Even after weeks of protest, TMT is still looming over Maunakea, and colleagues are making many arguments justifying TMT over Hawaiian rights. Some are saying this is science versus religion, or that TMT is an economic boon to Hawaiians or that science is more important, or that polls say Hawaiians support TMT. None of these arguments matter or are relevant. Saying science versus religion is a Eurocentric (Western) way of diminishing Hawaiian culture and history and attempts to define the sacredness of Maunakea in Eurocentric way. It is irrelevant. Maunakea is Hawaiian and we do not have consent. Our ethical duty is to respect even if we don’t understand. When astronomers/scientists note that TMT should be built because it is an economic boon to Hawaiians, it is also irrelevant. Maunakea is Hawaiian territory and Hawaiians will decide what is or isn’t an economic boon. When scientists cite polls saying Hawaiians  support TMT so it should be built, they are saying that they get to decide what is or isn’t consent. But, Maunakea is Hawaiian and we do not have consent. No matter what frivolous argument astronomers make, (Eurocentric) astronomy does not have rights to Maunakea. Maunakea is Hawaiian territory and it is time we in science and astronomy respect that ahead of our own ambitions.

While I see this “debate” in a simple way, I think the debate exists because of how we do astronomy.  Astronomy in the USA, Canada, etc. is built from a Eurocentric perspective and erases Indigenous knowledges and peoples. Just think about a constellation in the sky made of a grouping of stars. Who defined that constellation, was it European or from somewhere else? It was probably a constellation defined by a group of European scientists about a century ago based on historical use of Greek/Roman constellations and less likely a Hawaiian constellation or an Inuit constellation or any Indigenous constellation.  We have not learned to respect and embrace Indigenous knowledges into astronomy. We have never truly listened to Hawaiians and Indigenous peoples. Maybe if we as scientists had a meaningful understanding of Hawaiian astronomy and perspectives, we could have avoided the situation we are in now.

Instead of erasing Indigenous knowledges, what if we braided Indigenous knowledges and Eurocentric astronomy? The Mi’kmaq Elders Albert and Murdena Marshall presented the term “Two-Eyed Seeing” as a methodology to view natural phenomena through two perspectives: one Eurocentric, one Indigenous. Bringing the two perspectives together allows us to understand natural phenomena better and in more detail. We as scientists would learn to see our relation to the natural phenomena we observe and to the land on which we live and work. Perhaps methods like this would help scientists and astronomers better understand Hawaii and Indigenous peoples worldwide. We have a lot to learn.


Hilding Neilson is a non-tenure stream assistant professor in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and is a member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation from Newfoundland and Labrador. He is an interdisciplinary scientist and educator working to blend Indigenous knowledges into astronomy curriculum with the goal of Indigenizing astronomy in Canada.  His research also focuses on probing the physics of stars from those like our Sun to the biggest, most massive stars and how we use these stars as laboratories to better understand our Universe from cosmology to extrasolar planets.

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  • kamicasey

    Thank you for the article. As an outsider I’m not going to throw my hat in on the topic, though the debate in the comments is very interesting. I live in Aotearoa/New Zealand and we’re having a similar struggle over indigenous land rights at Ihumātao, albeit without the aspect of potential for scientific research.

    What I did come here to say is it absolutely floored me to see that this is the only article on UCS tagged “decolonize science” and “indigenous knowledge”. This is such a rich and utterly IMPORTANT field and conversation to be happening, I’m saddened to see that it isn’t more of a focus here.

  • Sage-Lee Medeiros-Garcia

    It is Hawaiian Territory in a sense that it is Public Trust Public Land when United States of America federally gave back our ceded lands as Public Trust. Whereupon there are conditions that identify our race and heritage to be of the primary decision maker to what fits those conditions: what benefits our community and what should be there for education purposes. No other party above decides on what is a positive impact on the community. You cant say this is good for Native Hawaiians, when the public sees Astromony centers up there as continuous moves made by Asian administrators who run a number of positions within our official duties and local politics. Last month, Ige, Govenor, prompted interisland police task force and activation of the National guard to challenge the protest, to challenge THE RIGHT to ASSEMBLY. With that authoritarian act and use of regime, it worries Native Hawaiians as to who is in charge of the state. Because due to cultural differences, interests, and racial identity it makes it difficult for Native Hawaiians to pursue and complete our vision of Hawaii. In Hawaii, there is a divide between Natives and state eventhough our Natives serve in the Armed forces and know our rights and history. If only we could replace those that serve in the State with those who identify with Hawaiian values and culture in order to reconstruct and recontinue the ways of our cultures past and not continue this desecration.

  • Veronica Ohara

    I am Kanaka Maoli, Native Hawaiian, not an astronomer and I support TMT and astronomy on Maunakea. To be quite frank, I am tired of seeing people who don’t fully understand the larger issues make up silly ideas about making astronomy indigenous. Astronomy is uniquely Hawaiian, but you can’t know that if you don’t know Hawaiian people or live in Hawaii. Simply put, we arrived on these shores generations ago by “naked eye astronomy”, known as Way Finding. It takes generations to learn this knowledge and share it with other. We have the Imiloa Astronomy Center that is dedicated to preserving our culture and it is supported by TMT and the astronomy community. There are many Kanaka Maoli, Kanaka Oiwi, Native Hawaiians who support TMT, work at the existing observatories, we have graduate students waiting in the wings to soar, find new pathways, our future astronomers, astrophysicists, cosmologists and this is their time. So please, before you get on your high savior horse and think about us first. We don’t need saving, we know indigenous tradition because that is who we are. #imuaTMT

  • Charles Keller

    A splendid little piece of self-congratulatory virtue signaling, complete with woke patronizing tone. Newsflash: It isn’t just you that would benefit from TMT. All humanity would gain from the TMT just as we already gain from all other observatories working on MK. Stand in the way of any of them and you’re standing against the advancement of humanity itself. It’s really that simple. Plus there’s that pesky little ‘rule of law’ thing you’re not going to get around.

  • HeckSpawn

    It amazes me how the Hawaiians can disrespect their entire culture of astronomy that brought them here to the Islands. If the Tahitians hadn’t used the stars for navigation, there wouldn’t be any “native” Hawaiians.Even their words for left and right mirror their words for South & North, derived from the navigators noting the setting sun in the west and spreading their arms wide to find the poles.

    Perhaps if the author was more familiar with Hawaii, he would know about the Hawaiian names for the constellations. Also, the telescopes here on the Mauna almost exclusively give Hawaiian names to the objects discovered.

    With the European’s first visit to the Islands, Kamehameha I understood the need to advance science & technology. The Palace in Honolulu had electric lights before the White House did. King David Kalakaua brought the first telescope to the islands. The efforts of the “protectors” is to undo all of the advances for Hawaiians in the nearly 500 years since the Europeans came. One would think that they would want to be at the forefront in aiding mankind’s navigation to the stars.

    • HeckSpawn

      Ha’awi i na hoku i na kanaka.

  • Markopolo

    Your premise, that “Maunakea is Hawaiian territory” is faulty, at least as far as I understand your intent.

    The summit of Mauna Kea is property that was ceded to the State of Hawaii in 1959, when Hawaii became the United State’s 50th state. The state lands are administered as a Conservation District by the state Bureau of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). The University of Hawaii leases 13,321 acres of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve on the summit, and manages the lands through the Office of Mauna Kea Management.

    The summit of Mauna Kea is not “Hawaiian territory” subject to any authority of the protesters. They have no legal standing.

    The TMT has a valid permit, issued by the state BLNR, which was validated by the Hawaii Supreme Court. The project should proceed, as soon as possible.

    • Susan Rosier

      It’s Trust Lands! You’ll find that FACT stated in the Organic Act that supposedly made the Territory and also in the Statehood Act which passed after a fraudulent voting process that eliminated Hawaiians from the vote and a ballot that did NOT conform to US law nor International Law.

      • disqus_Naeahuau

        The argument re application of International Law is a flawed theory put forward by Keanu Sai in his thesis. The premise is erroneous in that it applies International Law to actions committed prior to the establishment of such law. Mr Sai has defrauded multiple clients in quit claim and quiet title law suits by assuring the applicability of international law, taking payment for representation, and then losing each and every case. You should choose your champions with better care.

      • pomai

        Have you seen the letter from the UN dated last year
        Stating that Hawaii is under an illegal US belligerent military occupation and a fraudulent annexation.
        All based on illegal transfer of land Titles?

        The same thing Keanu Sai was saying in the mid 1990 while doing Title Searches he had discovered a break in the Title.
        In a room of 300 Realtors he asked if anyone could refute what he was saying no one could.
        One week later Governor Cayatano fearing the worst, had his company raided and his company was charged for stealing Real Property and Racketeering charges.

        Judge charges him 5 year probation No Title Searches $200 fine.
        A month later he’s in the International Court defending himself as the Hawaiian Kingdom acting Regional government vs HK Subject for not protecting him from the US occupation.
        The International Court was confused and thought Hawaii was 50th state they asked the US to be part of the case hoping they would show the Treaty of annexation US refused.

        Dr. Sai is a political scientist in HK law and history.
        The reason for the break in the title in 1893 when the US invaded Hawaii they put the us insurgents into the new government HK notaries couldn’t sign the Land Titles proving no one what’s holding a gun to the head of the landowner.

      • disqus_Naeahuau

        You should research with more care. None…as in zero… cases have even been heard in any court that Sai submitted documents asserting this claim. The UN did Not hear his case rejecting it as having no merit.The Hague Court did not hear his case for not having met submission requirements. Sai’s website claims otherwise… But the public records give lie to his assertions. Sai set up a quasi- governmental body through a real estate LLC. He based legitimacy on not only the flawed argument I cited above…but based on the 1864 constitution. Unfortunately the 1887 constitution voided the 1864 version when signed into law by King Kalakaua. Sai conveniently fails to mention this.

      • Andrew Cooper

        I have seen the letter… Keep in mind that it is not an official UN position despite it being on UN letterhead. It is the opinion of an adviser to the UN, nothing more, an opinion from one guy. One guy who has a rather controversial history at that.

      • Andrew Cooper

        Susan, you might read the Organic Act again. The land in question is ceded land, not trust land, indeed the Organic Act really does not define trust land at all. The act specifies the ceded lands are to be used to benefit the “inhabitants” of Hawaii, not Hawaiians specifically. The concept of trust land really began with the Hawaiian Homes Act as set forth by Prince Kuhio after the formation of the territory. The summit of Mauna Kea was never designated as such.

  • Paniolo Kamaaina

    The argument sounds quite convincing if you don’t know Hawaiian history. But one should not just assume the stereotypical view of Hawaiians and accept whatever rumors fit the stereotype. Check the facts instead if you don’t wish to be naive.

    There are activists blocking access to the mountain, that is true. They have amassed a crowd. That is also true. They claim that because of the U.S. occupation of the Kingdom of Hawaii, the sacredness of the mountain is being desecrated That should not be assumed true, as it can be shown to be false.

    Let’s look at the issue of desecration, first. The activists were caught trying to plant false evidence by bringing bones to the TMT construction site. It seems clear that the activists themselves were doing the desecration for political ends. But let’s dig deeper. What about the claims of the US occupation being responsible for the mountain not being considered sacred? To the contrary, the kapu system that would have given the mountain its sacredness was banned early in the history of the Kingdom of Hawaii, as the official religion of the Kingdom of Hawaii was protestant Christianity.

    Now let’s look at the idea of sacredness and the Kingdom. The year after the Kapu system was abolished, Christian missionaries arrived from New England in the place of native Hawaiian Opukahaia, who wanted to come himself to end the kapu system and turn the people to Christianity. His death inspired the outpouring of Christian missions from the U.S. around the world, starting with Hawaii. When they reached the kingdom, the people turned in droves to accept Christianity, including the monarchy. Christianity was declared the national religion of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It was in fact more of a Christian nation than the U.S. ever was. Only Christianity was permitted under the Kingdom until the French invaded and demanded that the importation of alcohol and the practice of Catholicism also be allowed. It is in fact the U.S. Bill of Rights that allows the activists to make their claims of sacredness, as it would have been strictly forbidden under the Kingdom.

    Now let’s examine whether or not they speak for the Kingdom, as they call for sovereignty. Who was the designated heir to the throne? And does the sovereignty movement seek to re-establish the throne of the heir? Or to grab power for themselves? To be honest, I wouldn’t have figured this out on my own, but a member of the royal family decades ago told me that the leaders of the sovereignty movement don’t seem to want to return power to the royal family, but rather to grab it for themselves, who would be commoners had the Kingdom continued. So I looked into it, and sure enough, the House of Kawananakoa was designated to inherit the throne in the time of the last Queen to sit in the royal palace, Liliokalani.

    The house of Kawananakoa survives to this day, but you don’t see them active in the protests. If the sovereignty movement ever gains momentum and leads to sovereignty of Hawaii, watch to see if the activists betray the designated heir and grab the throne for themselves. And if that is their motive, everything makes sense. So where did TMT err? With no knowledge of Hawaii’s history, they were naive enough to assume that the protesters were making legitimate claims. At one point I heard a representative of theirs who is obviously unfamiliar with the culture and history here to advocate defiance if other family members take the opposing view. Fortunately, a local community leader who is Hawaiian who was present spoke up to say that we should rather seek peace and understanding in our families through reasoning. A mistake was made by sending representation too unfamiliar with the culture and history to give an appropriate answer when presented with false claims.

    Our lesson here is may be that we should not accept claims naively, but need to check out the evidence. That is absolutely critical for verifying claims related to history as it is for science

  • Andrew Cooper

    Yes you are an outsider, one who has a simplistic view of the issues that surround the mauna and the State of Hawaii in general. An outsider who has no knowledge of the many Hawaiians who work at the observatories, who oversee the projects that take place on the mauna. Come meet the folks who work on the mauna, you will find that many of them were born and raised on this island, are proud of what they do. Over half the staff who run the observatories are locally hired, including many management and supervisory positions.

    The issues here cannot be understood with an hour of internet research needed to write an article for your blog, there have been ten years of hearings and court cases, including a six month long contested case hearing, and two supreme court cases. The issue is not simply one of culture and science, it is the relationship of indigenous culture with modern culture, it is past historical wrongs, it is current inequities, it is the power of social media to create a volatile mess of it all. The issue is not really the telescope or the mauna, these have simply become symbols for much more.


      Did you actually read the article?

      • Andrew Cooper

        Of course I read it. Having been involved at many stages of the process, including attending and sometimes testifying at some of the proceedings I am very aware of the issues. Flaw 1: Mauna Kea is Hawaiian. Flaw 2: Hawaiians did not give consent. Flaw 3: Astronomy has not embraced indigenous knowledge. Shall I go on. There are many more.

  • disqus_Naeahuau

    As a native Hawaiian who lives at the base of the mountain…whose family has lived on the slopes for 5 generations and who have resides on this island for over 1000 years I can say that the protest does not reflect the will of the Hawaiian people and is led by a fringe minority who corrupt the old religion to their purposes. They have very deftly morphed the dialog from being about these religious objections to being about sovereignty and self determination and have made quite a splash in social media. Don’t be fooled though. This protest is lead by 7 people who have failed to prove their religious concepts are customary and traditional in multiple court cases. Their views do not reflect our ancient traditions not our values. To side with them in solidarity with indigenous peoples around the globe is to pick one small faction of Hawaiians out of the majority of Hawaiians who deny their legitimacy. He Kanaka Maoli au. I am native Hawaiian. I and the majority of my native Hawaiian brothers and sisters reject this faction as falsely representing they speak for all of us. They don’t. The author may claim he is a scientist…but he has failed the basic test of scientific methodology. We welcomed the astronomers to this island following the collapse of the sugar industry following the destructive tsunami of 1960. TMT in particular took great care to seek cultural guidance starting in 2008. They addressed each and every concern and were issued the permits. The permits and the process have been upheld time and again in court. Thevorotesters grievances were given special consideration in the Hawaii Supreme Court and found to be without merit…so they take extralegal means to block this project that gas successfully jumped through every hoop placed in its path. The author adds his support to a fringe movement without truly understanding the issues at hand. Auwe!

    • HeckSpawn

      Hāʻawi i nā hōkū i nā Kānaka.

    • manoa_gurl

      Beautifully spoken.

    • Huck Finn

      I agree with your comments except that It doesn’t take much scholarly research to see that arrival of Tahitian Polynesians in Hawaii was in the period 1219–1266 ACE. Thus your ancestors were not actually there a thousand years ago. See: Janet M. Wilmshurst, Terry L. Hunt, Carl P. Lipo, and Atholl J. Anderson.”High-precision radiocarbon dating shows recent and rapid initial humancolonization of East Polynesia”, PNAS, vol. 108 no. 5, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1015876108, accessed 26 October 2015 Hard to argue with radio-carbon dating. Hawaiian human history is relatively brand new. Thus, it would seem that the ancient gods of Hawaii are not so ancient at all. The ones left behind in Tahiti, that’s a different story.

      Next let’s address the bogus claim that the observatories are “ruining the ecology” of Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea last erupted 6,000 to 4,000 years ago and is now considered dormant. And it even shows signs of glaciation. So says the USGS in a recent report. (That’s a good thing by the way or it would be a poor choice for all those expensive telescopes to be sited there.) The same first Nation inhabitants arriving at most 800 years ago found that there were forested lands surrounding Mauna Kea. When the Tahitian Polynesians arrived, they proceeded to destroy, through understandable ignorance, the ecological balance of the islands. Including “sacred” Mauna Kea. One of the primary culprits was the introduced Polynesian rat (R. exulans) that came with the Tahitians and which proceeded to overwhelm a large number of indigenous animals. So the argument that the current development of observatories starting in the 1960’s has been harmful to the ‘natural’ environment of Mauna Kea is, like much of the argument of the protesters, revisionist history. The natural environment had been demolished centuries before. Later, animals introduced by Western farmers completed the ecological disaster. It was not the observatories. The ecology hasn’t changed an iota since they’ve been built.

      The next argument that seems to be fraught with emotion but little actual facts is the notion that burial sites are being disturbed, which is illegal in Hawaii. While it is always possible that there are unknown burial sites still to be discovered, Mauna Kea has been extensively studied for burial sites. According to a 2016 article in the Star Advertiser: “The Office of Mauna Kea Management said the mountain has been surveyed for burials and other archaeological features. There are no known burials at the site, located at 13,100 feet above sea level, or other telescope sites, according to the office.” If the state agency is to be taken for its word, that argument of the protestors is also weak.

      • disqus_Naeahuau

        Radio Carbon dating is actually very arguable in light of its imprecision. Further…taking at face value the supposed Tahitian Invasion is also very arguable. The entire notion is based on the oral tradition, which on analysis does not really support the position at all, citing too few voyages over a 200 year timeline with no true evidence that the chiefs and Paao actually came from Tahiti. The oral tradition states they came from Kahiki…which has been interpreted as meaning Tahiti by some and disputed by others ( Cordy). The archeological evidence of change in style of heiau also does not support the invasion legend… as the marae style used to support the theory was not actually in practice in Tahiti at the presumed time frame. The societal organization theory us equally frought, in that it disregards the demands of an increasing population on the style if governance. There are plenty of unknowns, many probably unresolvable. However assertion of 1000 years of history here is neither impossible nor ridiculous. My genealogy, utilizing even a 15 year generational length, easily takes my family that far into the past, and if the standard 20 year model is used, much further. The oral tradition even includes that the chiefs of Maui kingdom and Kauai Kingdom had maintained their purity and it was the Hawaii polities which had been profligate and had diluted their authority through indiscriminate mating of commoners and chiefs.

      • disqus_Naeahuau

        In addition… the oral tradition does not say that the Tahitians, if in fact they came at all, extinguished the existing population. In truth, the tradition says that a new religion was established and some new chiefs installed. The chiefs would have presided over the existing population. Your comment seems to suggest otherwise.My family happens to trace from the Maui Kingdom, which had reciprocal ties with the Hawaii Kingdoms. There is no evidence to back your assertion other than the oral tradition, which happens not to support it.

  • Josh

    “The second thing I know is that Maunakea is Hawaiian territory and we, astronomy, do not have consent for TMT on Maunakea.” Other, of course, than the support showed for it by the polls of native Hawaiians which you mention and the approval of Kahu Ku Mauna (

    Respect for Hawaiians includes not painting them with a single brush. They are a group of people with a diversity of opinions on this issue. You’ve heard from one vocal minority. Don’t assume they speak for all.

    • Susan Rosier

      Hmmm do you know how many Hawaiians sit on Kahu Ku Mauna? Do you know how and who chooses them?

      You have your head in the stars and not on the land where thousands and thousands are take Stand for Mauna Kea! And guess what, the KAHEA (call for help) hasn’t even gone out yet!

      Last weekend over 5,000 people were up Mauna Kea. They were asked to leave in preparation for the two approaching hurricane. A core group stayed and with them the Kupuna stayed also.

      Enough is Enough! There’s been ENOUGH desecration of SACRED LAND .. the WAO AKUA. Enough sharing .. enough watching as telescopes become vacant but allowed to stand and rust while promises of decommissioning extend back decades.

      There are 650,000 Kanaka Maoli and an uncounted hundreds of thousands of Hawaiian Kingdom Nationals! The science community sign waving of 40 or 50 pales in comparison to marches of thousands across the islands and halau from around the world!

      It’s more than just your telescope! Natives around the world support protection of Mauna Kea and WE support them also. It’s a new day with no stopping, no turning back! Aloha no Kakou!

      • Andrew Cooper

        A few corrections… There are no abandoned or rusting telescopes on the mauna, another popular myth pushed by you and other opponents. One telescope is shut down and awaiting dismantling, but still maintained by the folks who own it. Two other telescopes have been shut down and dismantled over those decades, as promised.

        It is clear in polls and conversations around the island that a substantial portion, at least half, maybe much more of Native Hawaiians support the telescope. As so may of the protesters flew in from off island to support the protest it is hard to put any faith in your numbers.

        The summit is not the wao akua, realm of the gods, that is the forest belt at the middle elevations of the mauna. The correct term for the summit is kuamauna. I suggest you read a little from Malo’s Moʻolelo, he records the correct terms for the elevation zones of the mauna before modern protesters redefined them to suit their argument.

      • Sage-Lee Medeiros-Garcia

        That stat is pulled from a political question sent to the public asking those to identify as Asian or Pacific Islander, “Do you believe astronomy and Hawaiian culture can coexist on Mauna Kea?” Those who answered yes include those that do not fulfill the race identity as Native Hawaiian possibly accounting for a considerable amount in that pole.

  • Mike Foster

    I, too, am an astronomer; amateur, to be sure. I received my first telescope for my 9th birthday, 57 years ago. It was 1/11 meter aperture, made by Gilbert. Since then, I have owned 20+ telescopes, the largest so far 1/4 meter. I am well aware that aperture is everything. So to imagine 30 meters…

    My minor in college was Native American studies. Perhaps there is a different name now. So I wonder: did anyone first ask the Hawaiians if they wanted another big telescope on their mountain, before planning to build? Was their input invited? Did anyone say, “Thank you for the use of your mountain so far. We are thinking of the biggest telescope ever built, and we would like to know what you think. Would you like to talk about that?” Indigenous people are reasonable and smart, and are playing for keeps. Starting from a position of respect would have gone a long way in this negotiation.

    I would like to see the 30 meter telescope built, somewhere. Ask the neighbors first.

    • Josh

      TMT is the first telescope built on Maunakea with a new management structure which does exactly this. The Kahu Ku Mauna is a council made up of members of the Native Hawaiian community which is part of the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM). OMKM’s management role is to balance the scientific, cultural, and environmental concerns on the mountain. The result of the long process TMT went through to get approved was a compromise in which the telescope would be built lower down on the slopes of the mountain away from the most culturally important sites. In addition, 5 other telescopes would be removed (4 from the critical summit area). The TMT as proposed is the compromise position. This is not some cartoon example of evil western scientists trampling native concerns.

      • Charles Keller


      • Susan Rosier

        The organizations you speak of are paid for by the astronomy community with a small percentage by the state (who want the 18story structure). Obviously they would side with their masters who pay them!

      • Andrew Cooper

        The organizations depend heavily on volunteer advisors for their decision making, including local business and cultural leaders. If you have ever done business through that system you would understand that decisions are well considered and do not always go as the astronomy community desires.