Is the Pasadena-Headquartered Thirty Meter Telescope Abandoning Hawaiian Plans and Heading to Spain Instead?

No, but scientists are advancing a “Plan B” for a Canary Islands location just in case Mauna Kea doesn’t work out

Published : Tuesday, August 6, 2019 | 4:39 AM

Protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope planned for Hawaii's Mauna Kea have erupted in Pasadena over the years because of Caltech's involvement in the project. The activists shown above protest in April, 2017 said the mountaintop is sacred and must not be "desecrated."

Scientists are advancing a “Plan B” that would place the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope on a Spanish island just in case the Mauna Kea site doesn’t work out.

In Pasadena on Monday, TMT Executive Director Ed Stone said the application process to obtain a building permit in the Canary Islands was advancing.

But the backup is just a formality, according to the scientists.

The telescope is being built by a nonprofit international partnership with corporate offices on South Arroyo Parkway. Caltech is one of the founding partners in the project.

“We continue to follow the process to allow for TMT to be constructed at the ‘plan B’ site in La Palma should it not be possible to build in Hawaii,” Stone said. “This process has been ongoing since 2016. Mauna Kea remains the preferred site for TMT.”

Although the building permit on the Canary Island sounds like a victory for opponents of the 18-story megalith, it’s actually just procedure.

Project organizers previously announced several potential backup sites, selecting the Canary Islands as the primary alternate site in October, 2016.

“Though Hawaii is TMT’s chosen site, the challenges over the past several years have led the TMT International Observatory Board to develop a ‘Plan B’, a secondary Northern Hemisphere site on which to construct the observatory,” the TMT website reads.

The Hawaii Supreme Court last year ruled the international consortium behind the telescope lawfully obtained a permit to build the telescope, clearing the way for the construction to proceed.

Native Hawaiian groups have long opposed building the telescope on Mauna Kea, which they believe is sacred.

Mauna Kea is a volcano that stands 13,796 feet above sea level, and is the highest point in Hawaii. In past times, the summit was considered the realm of the gods and only the high chiefs and priests were allowed to ascend the summit.

The summit’s height and location deep in the pacific provides clarity and stability in the night skies making it perfect for astronomical research. There are 13 telescopes on the mountain.

Protesters have held several rallies both in Hawaii and Pasadena to stop the project starting back in 2014.

Protesters have been blocking roads leading to the project site for the past several weeks. Their cause has picked up steam since celebrities Dwayne Johnson and Jason Momoa visited them.

Last week a storm hit the island and thinned out the crowd.

However, this past week the size increased and at least 1,000 were at the base of Mauna Kea Saturday where the road is still being blocked off according to Hawaii News Now.

Another storm is expected to hit the area later this week.

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