Plans to build a 30m optical telescope atop summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii have been given the go ahead. The 30m telescope which will be the largest ever would be built at a cost of $1 billion. It would allow astronomers to looks at planetary objects that are 13 billion light years away.
This means that scientists could be able to see formation of new stars and planets as also delve into the early years of the universe. The 30m primary mirror of this telescope will provide nine times the collecting area as compared to telescopes of today and its images will be three times sharper. However, it will not hold the title of the largest telescope for a long time as European countries will be building the European Extremely Large Telescope that is estimated to possess a 42m long mirror. Mauna Kea is home to a dozen telescopes and is famous among astronomers as it gives them view of clear skies for almost 300 days of the year.
Native Hawaiian tradition is of the opinion that high altitudes are gateways to the spirit world and in olden times only high priests and chiefs were allowed atop the mountain. Keeping this in mind, there are some groups that have petitioned against the construction of the telescope atop the mountain fearing that it may defile the mountain. Though there are a number of reasons why the telescope shouldn't be built atop the volcanic summit of Mauna Kea, the nod to go ahead with construction has been given but also carries a number of conditions. Conditions that need to be taken heed of include employees to be trained in culture and natural resources of the region as also protection of the environment.