As It Happens

After protest arrests, astronomer defends Hawaii's Thirty Meter Telescope

The fight over what's being called the world's biggest telescope continues.
An artist's rendition of the Thirty Meter Telescope, which will be the world's largest optical telescope when it's completed for its estimated 'first light' on 2022. (Thirty Meter Telescope/Associated Press)

Earlier this week, eight people were arrested in a late night raid on a protest camp on Hawaii's dormant Mauna Kea volcano. The protesters call themselves "protectors" of the mountain, which is considered sacred to native Hawaiians.

But for many astronomers around the world, the summit of this mountain is one of the best places to view the stars. The project, called the Thirty Meter Telescope, is trying to move ahead despite the opposition to it. As It Happens spoke with protesters in April and June.

A man is arrested earlier this summer after blocking the road to the top of Hawaii's Mauna Kea where the giant telescope is being constructed. (Mileka Lincoln/Hawaii News Now via AP)

The director of the project, Michael Bolte, tells As It Happens host Carol Off, "Native Hawaiian concerns were high on our list of things we needed to take into account as we designed this project. We didn't want to be one of the old colonialists."

He says the telescope will help humanity understand the universe. For astronomers, the summit offers an ideal location to observe space. 

Bolte believes an agreement can still be made that would allow the project to go forward, saying, "I'm a pretty big fan of just hearts and mind conversion through respectful dialogue."

For more, take a listen to our interview.