The Thirty Meter Telescope is moving forward as the state of Hawaii seeks to address real injustices done to the Native Hawaiians, issues brought to wider attention by the protest building TMT.

When astronomers say that having a Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea will unlock discoveries, we can only dream of what do we really mean? What good reasons did a minority of Native Hawaiians have to oppose this construction? What has happened since the wonderful time when a protest on top of a beautiful mountain that seemed to have a carnival like atmosphere was the worst thing happening?

At a wavelength of 600 nm provide an angular resolution of 5 milliarcseconds. Compared to a typical 60 millimeter telescope ‘s 2516 millicarcseconds. In simple terms, look through that affordable 60mm telescope at Mars. Using something the size of TMT Mars would appear 503 times bigger, 503 times more detailed. It would be the difference between seeing a point of light, and maybe the ice caps as a smear of white on top of that point of light … and being able to see not mountain ranges but individual mountains. If you were on Mars looking at Earth it would be like going from being able to see that the Pacific Ocean existed, to being able to make out the Big Island. Especially if Kilauea was erupting. It would be the difference between seeing that North America exist, and seeing the great lakes and river systems of the continent.

TMT middle in context of other research grade ground-based telescopes. TMT will be cited lower on Maunakea than the telescopes currently there to make its visual impact less. Further it has been agreed to decommission and remove old no longer research usable telescopes.

At distances beyond the solar system, distances so far, so hard to wrap the mind around, that without a certain discipline it is easy to think it can’t be real. TMT will be able to tell the difference between a galaxy as a smudge of light and a collection of distinct stars, aid in detection of Earth Like Planets, and confirm life. TMT will be able to see objects near Earth that will transit its field of view as it observes more distant things (something which happens with all telescopes) as it surveys the sky over time.

Hawaiian Homelands Issue. 

So why would anyone oppose this? IF they have been convinced that building a telescope is a hallmark of “imperialism”, and even that astronomy itself is somehow imperialist or the property of one culture and imposed on another. It would if savvy people realize, correctly, that opposing a photogenic issue like TMT they can bring attention to real but less glamourous issues like the distribution of property to members of the native Hawaiian community under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

As I covered years ago (Thirty Meter Telescope: Observation Is Not Desecration! Astronomers Stand For Truth Not Defamation UPDATED”) The Native Hawaiians who opposed TMT had a valid point about the Hawaiian Homelands. Some of the more flamboyant claims are not supported when historical maps are consulted. i.e. ownership of the road leading to the top of Mauna Kea, the road predates everything back to the Kingdom of Hawaii. No one owns a road. HOWEVER, the real issue is that lands which clearly belong to the Kanaka Maoli, to be distributed to them by the state of Hawaii via 99 year leases have not been. That many of them have been made to wait and wait for DECADES to get the lands they are entitled to.

All this while in a state which has become increasingly a tourist playground, catering to the rich and only the rich. A place where expenses are high, economic opportunities are constrained, and homelessness has been an issue. A place where it is paradise if you have tens of millions, and what we on the mainland would call a middle-class life requires a million dollar home … that would be a ordinary 1 story house in most of the 48 continental United States Of America.

The state of Hawaii is now taking legislative action to fund the department of Hawaiian homelands more robustly.


Those are all referenced facts. In my opinion in light of these facts I am glad they protested. I’d be angry too if a telescope got built before a home, I’ve waited for for decades can get built. I am glad they brought these significant issues to light.

The Ku Kiai Mauna should lose on TMT but any of them who need a place to live should get it ASAP. Then if they are all about independence and sovereignty as a kingdom … start by figuring out who the royal family would be. Do what the UK did a few times, elect a parliament, then parliament decides who’s bloodline is the legit one. That or get your sovereignty by electoral victory in the system that they have. Do as the original kingdom, which was not an ethnostate and welcomed immigration and seek to win the hearts, minds, and votes of all residents of the islands.

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References “State House To Propose $600 Million For Hawaiian Home Lands” – Big Island Video News. “UH Regents Approve New Maunakea Master Plan” Big Island Now. “New federal report prioritizes Thirty Meter Telescope for share of $1.6B in funding” . “Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 (Astro2020)” National Academy of science.