The Thirty Meter Telescope is a project put together by a consortium of researchers and universities from America, Japan, Canada, China, and India. The plan is to build a 30-meter telescope, hence the name, which will provide resolution more than 10 times that of the space-based Hubble telescope. In 2009, after a worldwide search, the TMT consortium selected the peak of Maunakea as the ideal site to build the telescope.

There are already several large telescopes on Maunakea but a group of Hawaiians has been protesting the construction of the new telescope and claiming it violates a sacred site. The history of the approval process stretches over the past six years but in 2017 Hawaii’s Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a permit to allow construction of the telescope and in 2018 Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruled the permit was valid. Construction was set to begin in July of this year. Instead, the roads were blocked by protesters. And now several celebrities with connections to Hawaii are siding with the protesters, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Here’s The Rock joining a protest just over a week ago:

And here’s his explanation on Instagram:

Singer Bruno Mars is also supporting opponents of the telescope project:

 

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I love you Hawaii, and I’m with you. #protectmaunakea

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And finally, Jason Momoa has joined in:

 

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KAPU ALOHA. Finally with my people. So many things to come. We are United We are Mauna Kea Aloha nui j

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ET Online has a bit more of what Momoa had to say about the project:

“TMT + MAUNA KEA = DESECRATION. The solution TMT + CANARY ISLANDS = DISCOVERY. If not Canary Islands. then tough s**t send it to space,” he added in another post. “We support science. More importantly it’s astronomy and we support that. Also considering we Polynesians have sailed our oceans guided by the stars. But this has to stop — you can not build an 18 story building on our sacred mountain.”

“If u can’t build past 7 stories in Hilo or Kona then who decides and why the F**K would u build 18 on our mauna, shame on you,” he continued. “Anyone who supports this shame on you. Have you not taken enough from the Kānaka Maoli.”

So everyone supports science, just not on the sacred mountain. It seems the opposition is having some impact. Today the director of the consortium announced they would see a building permit for a backup site in the Canary Islands:

The director of a Spanish research center said Monday that the international consortium that wants to build a giant telescope on Hawaii’s tallest peak despite protests from Native Hawaiians has decided to seek a building permit for an alternative site in the Canary Islands.

Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute Director Rafael Rebolo told The Associated Press that he received a letter from the head of the Thirty Meter Telescope project saying its board recently decided “to proceed with the request to seek a building permit” for the island of La Palma…

Kaho’okahi Kanuha, another protest leader who has been arrested several times trying to block telescope construction on Mauna Kea, said he hopes telescope builders make the “right decision” and move the project to the Canary Islands.

“We remain committed to protecting Mauna Kea from further desecration, no matter how long it takes,” he said.

The Thirty Meter Telescope seems like a worthwhile project. It’s a shame that a handful of misguided people may be able to prevent a project that has jumped through every legal, environmental hoop the state could throw at them. That’s not how things are supposed to work in America, even if you have celebrities on your side.

Update: Here’s a local news report describing what the TMT could accomplish.